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CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel did not mock tortured detainee

CIA director pick Gina Haspel's past

Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee to be CIA director, did not oversee the Thailand CIA "black site" at the time that al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was being interrogated. Nor did she mock him during a waterboarding session. These assertions appeared in a story published by ProPublica in Feb. 2017, and on Thursday evening, the news site retracted the story, which it said was based on declassified agency cables and CIA-reviewed books. 

Haspel, who is currently the CIA's deputy director, did not become the chief of base at the Thailand black site until after Zubaydah's interrogation had ended. ProPublica's original story also quoted a book written by one of the CIA interrogators, which said that at one point Haspel addressed Zubaydah directly one session and made fun of him. "Good job! I like the way you're drooling," she reportedly told him. "It adds to the realism. I'm almost buying it. You wouldn't think a grown man would do that."  

But James Mitchell, a CIA contractor who aided in directing Zubaydah's waterboarding, told Fox Business Network on Wednesday Haspel was not the person who was making fun of Zubaydah.

"That chief of base was not Gina," Mitchell told Fox Business Network. "She's not the COB I was talking about."

ProPublica noted that its story had been cited by Haspel's critics as reason not to confirm her as CIA director. Among them was Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul, who said earlier this week that he will try to stop her confirmation. Referring to the ProPublica account, he told reporters, "When you read that sort of the joyful gleeful at someone who is being tortured," Paul said, "I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA."

Paul aide Doug Stafford said in a statement to CBS News' Alan He that Paul "was quoting a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter," and continued, "Regardless of the retraction of one anecdote, the fact remains that Gina Haspel was instrumental in running a place where people were tortured. According to multiple published, undisputed accounts, she oversaw a black site and she further destroyed evidence of torture. This should preclude her from ever running the CIA."

CBS News' Alan He contributed to this report.