WASHINGTON – Kentucky native. Single. The eldest of five children. Father was in the air force. Johnny Cash fan.
The CIA offered a glimpse Thursday into the secret life of Gina Reel, the former undercover agent President, Donald Trump has picked to lead the intelligence service. After more than 30 years at the spy agency, with much of her career, classified, Reel has become best known for the leaked details about her time as chief of the basis of a secret prison in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded after the 9/11 attacks.
In an unusual two-page memo sprinkled with personal facts, the agency is encouraged to try to change that before she is confronted with the public spotlight of a confirmation hearing.
The memo on the Reel do not have any information about her involvement in the interrogation program. Nor did it address how they drafted a memo that called for the destruction of 92 videotapes of the interrogations. Their destruction on the orders of a higher CIA officials in 2005 prompted a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.
The memo did provide information about her biography and her taste in office art: A 5-meter-high poster of the country music Cash.
Reel, 61, the deputy director of the agency, was born in Ashland, Kentucky. Her father is in the army at the age of 17 and she grew up on military bases abroad.
“As a junior in high school, the Reel came home and told her father that she had figured out what she wanted to do with her life: she was going to attend West Point,” the CIA said. “Her father had gently the news to her that West Point does not admit women. The pull of service and adventure, but stayed with her.”
After his graduation from high school in Britain, she went to the University of Kentucky, where she studied languages and journalism. She is still an avid fan of the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team even though she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, for an internship in her final year and graduated with honors from the University of Louisville, the agency said.
After college, Reel worked as a contractor with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. They walked to the library and foreign language lab. There she met a man by the name of Mike Vickers, who went on to assistant secretary of defense for intelligence. It was Vickers who told her about the CIA and they quickly learned that it was a place where women could do clandestine work all over the world.
“She has studied at the CIA, typed a letter to her college manual typewriter, and sent it off,” the CIA said. “On the outside of the envelope she wrote simply, ‘CIA, Washington, D. C.'”
She was hired. Reel is the first foreign assignment was as a case officer in a unknown country in Africa. There she carried out a clandestine mission in the midst of billboards plastered with Marxist-Leninist slogans. She traveled the region, learned to recruit and handle agents, and survived a coup.
During the first gulf war in the early 1990s, she worked with other governments about the humanitarian problems in secret locations. Shortly thereafter, she was appointed chief of the station, in a small outpost in yet another secret location that the CIA described as “exotic and chaotic capital city.”
“One night, Reel received word that two terrorists linked to the embassy bombing, came to the country where she was stationed,” the CIA said. “They quickly put together a operation that led to the terrorists’ arrest and imprisonment, together with the seizure of the computers that the details of a terrorist plot.”
For her work she received the George H. W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism. The CIA did not identify the bombing, but in 1998 more than 200 people were killed in the truck explosion on the AMERICAN embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
As the fight against al-Qaeda in a higher gear, Reel requested a transfer to the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center. She started that job on Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people.
“They ran in the middle of the hustle and bustle, went on a computer and went to work,” the CIA said. “They didn’t let up for three years, often working seven days a week.”
Before she was appointed deputy director of the CIA last year, Reel a range of senior vacancies: chief of staff to the deputy director for operations, chief of the station in the capital of a major AMERICAN ally and deputy director of the former National Clandestine Service, which is now called the Directorate of Operations.
Despite her long career, many of the Reel to the upcoming confirmation hearing is expected to focus on the time she spent with the supervision of the black site in Thailand.
The CIA won’t say when in 2002, the Reel was there, but at different times in that year, the interrogators at the site sought to make terror suspects talk by slamming them against walls, keep them sleep, keep them in the crate-large boxes and forced water down their throats — a technique called waterboarding.
No date is set yet for her Senate confirmation votes.