Brennan passes over CIA woman tied to torture for top spy job

The agency's highest ranking woman, with waterboarding past, had been tapped for the position

By Natasha Lennard

Published May 7, 2013 6:58PM (EDT)

As Salon noted earlier this year, the top-ranking female agent in the CIA, who helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and oversaw the destruction of videotapes of prisoners being subjected to torture, had been tapped for the top position of director of clandestine services. However, as the AP reported Tuesday, CIA director John Brennan has passed over the agent -- who remains undercover -- for the position, although she has been serving as acting director of clandestine services for a number of months.

The agent's potential promotion angered human rights advocates who have long noted that CIA leaders overseeing torture programs have not only faced no recriminations under Obama, but have maintained high-ranking positions in the government agency. It was thus politically expedient for Brennan to choose an agent with a past less muddied with Bush-era CIA counterterror practices.

According to the AP, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, personally "urged" Brennan not to promote the woman, given the agent's history entrenched in extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation. Via the AP:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, has criticized the interrogation program and challenged its supposed successes in a 6,000-page secret report. She personally urged CIA Director John Brennan not to promote the woman, according to a former senior intelligence briefed on the call.

Through a spokesman, Feinstein said she "conveyed my views to Mr. Brennan."

The officer briefly ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand where accused terrorists Abu Zubayada and Abd al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials. She was also a senior manager in the Counterterrorism Center helping run operations in the war on terror.

She also served as chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez and helped carry out his order that the CIA destroy its waterboarding videos. That order prompted a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.

Instead of picking the female officer, Brennan turned instead to the head of the CIA's Latin American Division, a former station chief in Pakistan who former officials said once ran the covert action that helped remove Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from power. That program is regarded inside the CIA as a blueprint for running a successful peaceful covert action.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

MORE FROM Natasha LennardFOLLOW natashalennardLIKE Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cia Clandestine Services Enhanced Interrogation Extraordinary Rendition John Brennan Torture