WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s choice to be the first female director of the CIA is a career spymaster who once ran an agency prison in Thailand where terror suspects were subjected to a harsh interrogation technique that the president has supported.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that he would nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, and that he has been selected by Gina Reel to replace Pompeo. Reel, the current deputy director of the CIA, also helped in the execution of a command that the agency destroy its waterboarding videos. That order prompted a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.
Reel, which has plenty of overseas experience, briefly ran a secret CIA prison where terror suspects Abu Zubayadah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
More than a decade after waterboarding was last used, the CIA is still haunted by the legacy of a tactic that the U.S. government considered to be a torture for President George W. Bush administration authorized its use against terror suspects. There is no indication that Trump’s pick signals a desire to take again the hard interrogation and detention program.
Reel, who is a member of the CIA in 1985, is chief of station at the CIA outposts overseas. In Washington, she has held several top senior management positions, including the deputy director of the National Clandestine Service and the deputy director of the National Secret Service, for Foreign intelligence and Covert Action.
When she was picked as deputy director of the CIA, her career was praised by veteran intelligence officers, including former Director of National intelligence James Clapper, who recently retired. But also angry at the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights lawyers who find it disturbing that Trump would choose someone who was involved in the heavy interrogation program.
“No one who had a hand in the torture of persons deserves to ever hold public office again, let alone the lead of an agency,” Human Rights First’s Raha Wala said on Tuesday. “Someone who has a direct hand in this illegal, immoral and counter-productive program is voluntary, of course, our nation’s dark history, with torture.”