16:54 GMT21 September 2020
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    As US President Donald Trump announced his decision to promote Gina Haspel, who previously served as the CIA deputy director, to the post of director, many expressed concerns over the CIA's possible return to harsh interrogation techniques. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Dr. Thomas Whalen, an associate professor at Boston University.

    Sputnik: What would you say about the appointment of Gina Haspel and how it has been taken by Washington and the media in the US?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: That's been taken as a kind of an afterthought. Everyone is talking more about Mike Pompeo and the various scandals that have been besetting the Trump administration. So, this is a kind of a footnote to the larger political picture. But Haspel, we have to remember, has spent most of her career really, since the mid-1980s, in a series of covert assignments abroad. So, she is a covert operative, and so, most of her work, by definition, is not to be seen or discussed. So, she has a kind of murky background. We know that she was a deputy director of the CIA; we know that she was a deputy director of covert operations with the CIA. But what specifically she did outside of running that black site prison in Thailand is open to speculation. But apparently, there was, you know, waterboarding down there. And that's important because President Trump has openly speculated that he would like a return to waterboarding or, in basic terms, torture to the US arsenal.

    Sputnik: Why do you think Trump appointed her?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: Politically it looks good to have the first woman as a CIA director. I mean it breaks a major glass ceiling in American government. At the same time, she is very popular apparently within the agency. Trump, right now, does not have a lot of credibility in kind of age-old agencies within the federal government, including the intelligence agencies. This would be in the direction of kind of building up some level of competency, or trust in the Trump administration which, frankly, is not there right now.

    READ MORE: Snowden: New CIA Head Might Face Arrest in EU Over Role in Torture Program

    Sputnik: You mentioned her background. How much attention is actually being paid to the fact that she did run that black site? Is there being a big deal made of that?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: It's slowly coming out now. John McCain, for example, the long-time Arizona senator and former presidential candidate for the Republican Party, he has voiced skepticism about this pick, you know. He, of course, has a special, personal interest in this because he had been a longtime prisoner war who had been essentially tortured during the Vietnam War. I think he is little weary of this pick given the fact that she ran a black site prison essentially in Thailand and was responsible for the torture, the waterboarding of two inmates there. Apparently, one of the inmates was waterboarded over 50 times during his stay at that black site prison, and, you know, I guess he lost an eye because his head was being pounded into a wall. Apparently the videotaped the evidence of this interrogation, well, Haspel destroyed the evidence. That's what is being reported. And that is very disturbing.

    Spuntik: Are there any obstacles to her being confirmed?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: The black site's operation, you know, the controversy surrounding the torture going back to the Abu Ghraib incidents during the Bush administration, this is going to be, I think, a tough confirmation fight moving forward for this nominee.

    Sputnik: Do you expect her to be confirmed in the end?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: As of right now probably, but the problem is with these confirmation hearings, things come up, you know, people poke around and it could put the Trump administration in an embarrassing situation.

    Sputnik: When did she destroy this material that was perhaps incriminating or was not putting her in the best light?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: I don't have the exact date, but the problem is that she claimed, you know, that it wasn't intentional.

    Sputnik: How do you think an appointment like this, if it is confirmed, will change the way that the CIA will operate in the future?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: It would suggest a return to harsh interrogation tactics, or what other people might consider just plain torture. And it shows that Trump is trying to beef up the CIA, it would appear, in his own image. And if we remember what he campaigned on, he was pretty open that he felt that the CIA had lost an edge that it needed to torture. I mean there is no other way to put it, because he thinks somehow that this has undermined our intelligence-gathering capabilities. That is a highly controversial proposition and I think that it will generate a lot of debate during the confirmation hearing.

    The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Thomas Whalen are those of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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