Con­tro­versy trails nom­i­nee who would be first woman to lead CIA

USA TODAY US Edition - - OPINION - Bart Jansen

Gina Haspel, Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­nee to be­come the first woman to lead the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, made her ca­reer in covert ac­tion, but her in­volve­ment in con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­ro­ga­tions has al­ready pro­voked Se­nate op­po­si­tion to her con­fir­ma­tion.

Haspel, who joined the CIA in 1985, earned high-level awards dur­ing her ca­reer. She was sworn in early last year as deputy di­rec­tor and helps man­age in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion, anal­y­sis, covert ac­tion and coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence.

Trump an­nounced Tues­day he was re­mov­ing Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and re­plac­ing him with CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo. The Se­nate must vote on Haspel to suc­ceed Pom­peo.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chair­man of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said he would move to quickly con­firm Haspel. “She has the right skill set, ex­pe­ri­ence and judg­ment to lead one of our na­tion’s most crit­i­cal agen­cies,” he said.

Haspel’s past in the agency drew op­po­si­tion to a pro­mo­tion. Shortly af­ter she be­came deputy di­rec­tor, se­na­tors raised ques­tions about Haspel draft­ing a ca­ble that called for the de­struc­tion of taped CIA in­ter­ro­ga­tions in 2002 at a se­cret prison in Thai­land.

Christo­pher An­ders, deputy di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Wash­ing­ton leg­isla­tive of­fice, called Haspel the “cen­tral fig­ure in one of the most il­le­gal and shame­ful chap­ters in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­tory.”

“She was up to her eye­balls in tor­ture, both in run­ning a se­cret tor­ture prison in Thai­land and car­ry­ing out an or­der to cover up tor­ture crimes by de­stroy­ing video­tapes,” An­ders said. “One man held at the se­cret prison she ran was wa­ter­boarded 83 times, slammed against walls, sleep-de­prived and locked in a cof­fin-like box. Af­ter she was pro­moted to a po­si­tion back at CIA head­quar­ters, she worked to de­stroy ev­i­dence of the tor­ture crimes com­mit­ted at the prison she ran.”

Trump said Haspel’s ap­point­ment would be “a his­toric mile­stone.”

Haspel said that af­ter 30 years at the CIA, she was hon­ored to serve with Pom­peo dur­ing the past year. “If con­firmed, I look for­ward to pro­vid­ing Pres­i­dent Trump the out­stand­ing in- tel­li­gence sup­port he has grown to ex­pect,” she said.

John Bren­nan, a CIA di­rec­tor un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, told MSNBC the “very con­tro­ver­sial” in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram Haspel was con­nected with was ap­proved by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and deemed law­ful by the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

“Gina Haspel has a lot of in­tegrity,” Bren­nan said. “She has tried to carry out her du­ties at CIA to the best of her abil­ity, even when the CIA was asked to do some very dif­fi­cult things in very chal­leng­ing times.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was tor­tured as a pris­oner dur­ing the Viet­nam War, said the Se­nate would need the same com­mit­ment from Haspel as Pom­peo gave to com­ply with the Army Field Man­ual’s rules for in­ter­ro­ga­tion. He called the de­ci­sion to wa­ter­board pris­on­ers af­ter the ter­ror at­tacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “dan­ger­ously mis­guided” and said the tech­niques are clearly banned now. “The tor­ture of de­tainees in U.S. cus­tody dur­ing the last decade was one of the dark­est chap­ters in Amer­i­can his­tory,” McCain said. “Ms. Haspel needs to ex­plain the na­ture and ex­tent of her in­volve­ment in the CIA’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram dur­ing the con­fir­ma­tion process.”

Sen. Ron Wy­den of Ore­gon, the top Demo­crat on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said he op­poses Haspel to head the CIA. “Ms. Haspel’s back­ground makes her un­suit­able to serve as CIA di­rec­tor,” he said. “If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the high­est lev­els of U.S. in­tel­li­gence, the gov­ern­ment can no longer cover up dis­turb­ing facts from her past.”

Sen. Tammy Duck­worth, D-Ill., voted against Pom­peo’s nom­i­na­tion and said, “Haspel has done much worse.”

“Not only did she di­rectly su­per­vise the tor­ture of de­tainees, but she also par­tic­i­pated in cov­er­ing it up by help­ing to de­stroy the video ev­i­dence,” said Duck­worth, an Iraq War vet­eran and Pur­ple Heart re­cip­i­ent. “Her rep­re­hen­si­ble ac­tions should dis­qual­ify her from hav­ing the priv­i­lege of serv­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple in gov­ern­ment ever again.”

Haspel re­ceived the Ge­orge H.W. Bush Award for ex­cel­lence in coun­tert­er­ror­ism and the Pres­i­den­tial Rank Award, the most pres­ti­gious award in the civil ser­vice.

“I look for­ward to pro­vid­ing Pres­i­dent Trump the out­stand­ing in­tel­li­gence sup­port he has grown to ex­pect.”

The CIA em­ployed harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques in what Sen. John McCain called “one of the dark­est chap­ters in Amer­i­can his­tory.”


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