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CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel: CIA releases timeline of her clandestine career

Gina Haspel speaks at an OSS Society event in 2017.

The OSS Society

Last Updated May 1, 2018 5:50 PM EDT

In its ongoing, uniquely forward-leaning efforts to support Gina Haspel's nomination to become the first female CIA director, the agency on Tuesday released additional, declassified details about her 33-year, largely clandestine career.

The timeline omits what the agency describes as more than 30 "short-term, temporary duty" assignments but gives shape to a professional trajectory focused heavily on European, Eurasian and Russian operations, after a start in the Africa Division. According to an agency document obtained by CBS News, Haspel had "some fluency" in Spanish and French before her work began, and learned Turkish and Russian on the job. She also received, the document says, "extensive training" as an operations officer. The first 13 years of her career, according to those familiar with it, were spent in field assignments working largely on Russian targets; she completed seven field tours in total. 

Just over a decade into her career, in 1996, she became a chief of station in what is listed as the "Central Eurasia Division." She was a station chief three times thereafter – twice in the Europe Division, in 2008 and 2014, and once in what is listed as a "Classified Location," in 2011.

Public reports have already filled in some of those gaps – she is known to have been in London in 2008 and 2014, in New York in 2011. It stands to reason she learned Turkish while serving in Ankara as Deputy Chief of Station in 2000. And it was while she was reportedly deputy station chief in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1998 that she is known to have organized an operation that led to the arrest of two terrorists linked to the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

The period of Haspel's career that has, to date, received overwhelming scrutiny – and heated criticism – is also apparently among its briefest. Her work between 2001 and 2004 as part of the agency's counterterrorism operations in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks has opened a strident debate about the viability of her candidacy; her reported oversight of a secret "black site" in Thailand where detainees were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002 has outraged human rights groups and prompted congressional requests for a full declassification of her role.

Further questions surrounding her involvement in the destruction of 92 videotapes – some of which documented the interrogations – while serving as chief of staff to then-director of the clandestine service Jose Rodriguez in 2005 are further grounds for her wholesale disqualification, her critics argue. Last month the agency released an internal, eight-page disciplinary review memorandum clearing her of wrongdoing in the matter. The memo was written in 2011 by then-deputy director Michael Morell. Morell, who is now a CBS News contributor, supports Haspel's nomination.

Many of Haspel's supporters concede that the period following 9/11 marked the start of a dark and reprehensible time in the agency's history, but they say her dedication to the agency's mission was evident when, even as the agency's headquarters were being evacuated on September 11, she walked into the counterterrorism center and asked to be put to work. They argue her personal experience with the consequences of the interrogation and detention program makes her better-prepared -- rather than ill-equipped -- to prevent any attempts to restart one in the future. They also point to the unknowable alternative candidate who might be named in her place.

Though Tuesday's release is at least the fifth attempt by the agency to make more information available about Haspel, lawmakers who have raised objections to her nomination appear to be still largely unmoved. An aide to Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, referred CBS News to a previous statement, noting a number of outstanding concerns raised by his office had not been addressed.

That statement, issued by Wyden along with Senators Heinrich, D-New Mexico, and Feinstein, D-California, said CIA's selective release of information about Haspel was "wholly inadequate."

"Ms. Haspel is not an undercover operative, she's the deputy CIA director seeking a Cabinet-level position. It's unacceptable for the CIA to hide her behind a wall of secrecy, particularly when such secrecy is unnecessary to protect national security," the senators wrote last week.

Haspel is scheduled to appear for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, on May 9.