CIA 'black site' agent promoted

The woman agent who ran a secret CIA operation to waterboard al-Qaeda operatives in Thailand has been selected as the first female to run the spy agency's clandestine operations division.

US media reports  from Washington said the woman was appointed earlier this month. It was yet another sign the Obama administration has adopted virtually all the anti-terrorist policies of the administration of ex-president George W Bush.

The identity of the first woman ever to lead a major CIA division is secret, in keeping with the spy agency's policies. The US National Clandestine Service arm of the CIA runs covert operations abroad for the agency.

Hollywood's Jessica Chastain portrayed "Maya", the CIA agent from Clandestine Services who helped to track Osama bin Laden, but in real life the identities of such agents are secret. (Columbia Pictures handout)

But she helped to set up the "black house" in Thailand where agents conducted so-called "enhanced interrogation" of two senior al-Qaeda operatives - USS Cole bomber Abd al-Nashiri and top terrorist planner Abu Zubaydah.

Zubaydah earlier this week filed a lawsuit against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights, alleging he was also held at a black site in Poland.

But Thailand, so far, has not been mentioned in any legal proceedings from the post-9/11 actions against al-Qaeda terrorists. The existence of a CIA-run black house in Thailand has been frequently reported in the media, but all Thai governments have denied knowledge of any such operation.

The new CIA director of clandestine operations was under investigation briefly because, in 2005, she authorised and took part in the destruction of more than 90 videotapes of interrogations at the Thailand black site.

Her boss at the time, Jose Rodriguez, claimed in a book written after his retirement that he was trying to protect the identities of CIA interrogators. But the CIA officially reprimanded him for the action, effectively ending his career.

Members of the US Democratic Party on the senate intelligence committee wrote a report, still classified, that said top CIA officers, presumably including the new clandestine services director, misled supervisors and members of the US Congress about the programme's value.

They charged it was "managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to details". The CIA may respond by next week.

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