CIA Director John Brennan is considering several candidates to oversee… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)
WASHINGTON — The acting chief of the CIA's operations wing ran a secret "black site" prison overseas after the 2001 terrorist attacks and later signed off on the decision to destroy videotapes of brutal interrogations, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The woman, who remains undercover, now is one of several candidates that CIA chief John Brennan is considering to head the National Clandestine Service, which conducts espionage overseas and runs the agency's paramilitary operations. He has asked three former senior CIA officials to vet the candidates. Depending on who is chosen, the appointee's identity might never be disclosed.
The Washington Post first reported her involvement in the now-discredited CIA detention and interrogation program, which critics say sanctioned torture.
Independent investigations identified CIA black sites in Afghanistan, Thailand, Poland, Lithuania, Morocco and Romania. It's not known which one she supervised.
President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged the secret CIA prisons in 2006 and ordered detainees transferred to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama banned waterboarding and other abusive techniques after he took office in 2009.
The Justice Department has twice declined to prosecute anyone for the so-called enhanced interrogations, which involved waterboarding, sleep deprivation, slapping and extreme temperatures.
In his 2012 book, "Hard Measures," the former head of the clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez, wrote that he "stole her away" from another unit and "had her head one of our earliest black sites, where terrorists were interrogated." After 2004, she served as Rodriguez's chief of staff.
In 2005, she helped Rodriguez draft an order to destroy more than 90 videotapes of interrogations at a black site in Thailand, where two Al Qaeda leaders were waterboarded. Rodriguez later was reprimanded by the CIA for ordering the tapes destroyed, despite his claim that he was trying to protect the identities of CIA interrogators.
Rodriguez wrote that she "endured intense scrutiny from federal agents and the special prosecutor because of her close working relationship with me."
A still-classified report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee recently concluded that top CIA officers misled their supervisors and members of Congress about the program's value. It was "executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to details, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said last month during Brennan's confirmation hearing.
The CIA is preparing to dispute the report's conclusions, sources said. The agency, which was supposed to respond in mid-February, may give its classified rebuttal this week.