Gina Haspel set to be CIA’s first woman chief

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Front Page - Yash­want Raj yash­want.raj@hin­dus­tan­ ▪ (With in­puts from Agen­cies)

WASH­ING­TON:US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day fired sec­re­tary of state Rex Tiller­son, re­plac­ing him with CIA chief Mike Pom­peo, with whom he said he is on the “same wave­length”.

Trump also nom­i­nated Gina Haspel, deputy direc­tor of the CIA, to take over from Pom­peo. If con­firmed, she will be the first woman to head the spy agency.

How­ever, her con­fir­ma­tion process could get ugly over her role in over­see­ing one of the CIA’s con­tro­ver­sial “black sites” — off­shore pris­ons known for us­ing tor­ture dur­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tion of ter­ror sus­pects. She was also al­legedly in­volved in de­stroy­ing ev­i­dence of in­ter­ro­ga­tions at the fa­cil­ity in Thai­land.

Trump an­nounced the changes in a tweet on Tues­day morn­ing. Later, talk­ing to re­porters, he said: “Rex and I have been talk­ing about this for a long time...We got along, ac­tu­ally, quite well but we dis­agreed on things.”

Many ob­servers noted that Tiller­son was sacked soon af­ter he blamed Rus­sia for the nerve agent at­tack on for­mer dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal in Bri­tain.

Ru­mours about fric­tion be­tween Trump and Tiller­son have cir­cu­lated for months, and me­dia re­ports said Tiller­son had called the pres­i­dent a “mo­ron” — some­thing that the sec­re­tary of state never de­nied. Tiller­son re­port­edly con­sid­ered re­sign­ing at one stage, but was talked out of it by vice pres­i­dent Mike Pence.

Tiller­son, a for­mer ExxonMo­bil CEO, dif­fered with Trump on many pol­icy is­sues, some­times pub­licly. Trump pointed to their dif­fer­ences about the Iran nu­clear deal in re­marks on the an­nounce­ment.

“When you look at the Iran deal,” he said. “I think it’s ter­ri­ble, I guess he (Tiller­son) thought it was okay. I wanted to ei­ther break it or do some­thing and he felt a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently.”

They also dif­fered on North Korea. At a time when Trump was talk­ing tough and threat­en­ing Py­ongyang with “fire and fury”, Tiller­son sought to keep doors open for talks.

How­ever, Pom­peo, a for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man from Kansas, has been a trusted ad­viser to Trump even on do­mes­tic is­sues. “We’re al­ways on the same wave­length. The re­la­tion­ship has been very good and that’s what I need as sec­re­tary of state,” Trump told re­porters.

State de­part­ment of­fi­cial Steve Gold­stein, in a state­ment, said Tiller­son had “ev­ery in­ten­tion of re­main­ing” in of­fice, had not spo­ken to Trump on Tues­day, and was “un­aware of the rea­son” why he had been asked to go. Soon af­ter he is­sued the state­ment, the White House fired Gold­stein, one of Tiller­son’s top aides.

Two of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion told AP that Tiller­son had been fired on Fri­day, while he was on an of­fi­cial trip to Africa. A sep­a­rate White House of­fi­cial said dis­miss­ing Tiller­son had been dis­cussed for a long time, and the North Korea over­ture and in­vi­ta­tion brought more ur­gency to the de­ci­sion.

The change of lead­er­ship at the state de­part­ment will be closely fol­lowed in New Delhi, com­ing just a month be­fore In­dia and the US are sched­uled to hold their first 2+2 di­a­logue — the si­mul­ta­ne­ous meet­ing of the de­fence and for­eign min­is­ters.


▪ No love lost: Rex Tiller­son (left) and Don­ald Trump

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