Haspel is uniquely suited to run the CIA
Last week, women across the nation were watching when the lights came on and the cameras rolled at Gina Haspel’s Senate confirmation hearing. For an intelligence professional who has been shot at overseas, survived a coup d’état, and quietly broken down barriers for women throughout her career, this surely was not one of Haspel’s tougher assignments.
She has been nominated for one of the most important and most difficult jobs in the federal government — director of the CIA. Haspel would be the first female chief in the agency’s 70-year history.
Anyone who has carefully studied her record knows that she should be confirmed for three reasons: her qualifications, her character and the spurious nature of her critics’ claims.
First, her qualifications: Gina Haspel is a 33-year veteran of the CIA and, as such, knows and understands the agency inside and out. She has learned and spoken at least four languages. She received field assignments in Africa and Europe, and has served as station chief in multiple locations, as well as deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, and deputy director of the agency. She won’t have to learn organizational dynamics on the fly. She’ll hit the ground running and not lose precious time when trying to keep our country safe.
Second, Haspel’s character is unimpeachable. She’s no partisan appointee, though some have tried to label her as complicit in supposed Republican sins. The fact is that she performed critical roles in the world’s premier intelligence agency under two Democratic presidents and four Republican ones. Those who actually know her, who have worked alongside her and followed the arc of her career, are unequivocal in their praise. Haspel has garnered support from, among others, Michael Hayden, John Brennan, Leon E. Panetta and James R. Clapper Jr. All were senior intelligence or Defense officials under President Barack Obama; all hold her in high regard.
Third, her critics at best suffer from amnesia and at worst have knowingly and intentionally maligned some of her actions and intentions for their own shortsighted ends. What they’ve called into question is Haspel’s alleged role in overseeing enhanced interrogation techniques in the days immediately following 9/11, as well as her supervisor’s decision to destroy videotaped footage of interrogations.
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, including some of her chief critics last week, were repeatedly briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques between 2002 and 2007. They were aware of what the interrogation methods were, and that they were being used in isolated instances to protect the country from significant national security threats. Two different Justice Departments — one under President George W. Bush and another under Obama — investigated the program and exonerated Haspel and other intelligence professionals. The fact that Congress decided after the fact that certain policies were unwise does not make the intelligence community’s implementation of those policies unlawful or otherwise improper. Indeed, it was the community’s professional obligation to carry them out.
A narrow focus on this one brief period in our nation’s history obscures the CIA’s pivotal role and successes across the world over the past three decades. Rising through the agency’s ranks from the Cold War through 9/11 and after, Haspel undoubtedly has been involved in those achievements. Most are classified, but let’s not forget that the CIA, with a team code-named Jawbreaker, was “first in” Afghanistan after the twin towers fell in 2001. It was integral in the raid that ended Osama bin Laden’s reign of terror 10 years later. And as recently as six months ago, it helped foil a terrorist attack at a Russian cathedral. Haspel’s career is better viewed in this broader context than through twisted accounts of isolated episodes, and she deserves our praise for her extraordinary service, especially during hours of great peril.
The president recently tweeted, “Win Gina!” That is what Haspel — calm and composed even under intense scrutiny — did at the hearing last week, and that’s what she’ll do as the first female director of the CIA. The writer, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Texas and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.