New CIA Director John Brennan is hesitating over whether to permanently appoint the woman who is leading the agency’s clandestine service on an interim basis, a move that would make her the first female to serve in that position in CIA history.
The candidate, who wasn’t named because she is still an undercover operative, was temporarily put in charge of clandestine operations when the CIA’s former chief retired last month, the Washington Post reported.
Though the veteran CIA officer has impeccable qualifications to lead the clandestine service, “she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture,” the article said.
“To help navigate the sensitive decision on the clandestine service chief, Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates,” the Post reported, quoting a former senior U.S. intelligence official as saying, “The director of the clandestine service has never been picked that way.”
According to the article, Brennan’s hesitation to make her the new clandestine chief “has led to speculation that Brennan is seeking political cover for a decision made more difficult by the re-emergence of the interrogation controversy and the acting chief’s ties to that program.”
The Post explained the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the videotapes recorded in a secret interrogation facility in Thailand after Sept. 11, 2001:
The agency recorded more than 90 tapes of often-brutal interrogations, footage that became increasingly worrisome to officials as the legal basis for the program began to crumble.
When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, was promoted to head of the clandestine service in 2004, he took the female officer along as his chief of staff. According to former officials, the two repeatedly sought permission to have the tapes destroyed but were denied.
In 2005, instructions to get rid of the recordings went out anyway. Former officials said the order carried just two names: Rodriguez and his chief of staff.
The Justice Department never charged any CIA officials with wrongdoing in the incidents, the Post said.
“But at the end of the day John is going to have to choose, even if his choice isn’t [the panel’s] number one choice,” a former senior CIA official told the Post. “Some people’s demands for archaeology should not influence the director’s decision going forward on what’s best for the agency.”