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A woman who helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and oversaw the destruction of videotapes of prisoners being subjected to torture, may be appointed director of clandestine services under new CIA chief John Brennan.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the woman has been acting director of clandestine services — a top appointment in the agency – since last month. Now Brennan must decide whether to make permanent the promotion of the agent — who is undercover and cannot be named — with a past entrenched in the CIA’s controversial post-9/11 activities. Brennan came under scrutiny during his confirmation process over his role in the Bush-era CIA practices. Although the counterterror czar insisted that he had long objected to waterboarding, his longtime colleagues at the agency have questioned the history of his disavowals — Brennan was a senior CIA official when waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques became widespread practice.
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. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said.
“The director of the clandestine service has never been picked that way,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official.
The move 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.
She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com.More Natasha Lennard.