Why Gina Haspel Should Be Confirmed as CIA Director

As Mike Pompeo takes his place as secretary of state, his designated successor at the agency he left, the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, is facing a battle for confirmation as the organization's new director.  Opponents have thrown out the argument that Haspel, a CIA veteran, participated in the war on terror over the last two decades.  But Haspel should be confirmed as CIA director because she is on the side of justice and patriotism.  Leftists are criticizing her for making terrorists uncomfortable.  Those against her are willing to ignore her high qualifications and instead criticize her for playing a role in enhanced interrogations.

The argument is absurd.  Leon Panetta, president Obama's CIA director and secretary of defense, said in his book: "The CIA got important, even critical intelligence from individuals subjected to these enhanced interrogation techniques."

Yet critics, as reported in the New York Times, claim she oversaw "torture of terrorists" in the overseas black sites, where enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and confinement were common.  One of the Times articles went on to say the terrorists suffered, "psychological damage."  It never mentioned that Special Forces training includes these enhanced interrogation methods.  These critics are more concerned about those who committed horrific acts of violence than those who suffered at the terrorists' hands.  Not surprisingly the New York Times was not the only media publication trying to defame Haspel.  Other press organs joining the bandwagon have included The Daily Beast, NPR, and the Washington Post, just to name a few.

A 9-11 family member who lost a relative in the massive 2001 terror attack iterated what many families who lost loved ones feel: "people need to take a step back and get off the rhetoric.  Our first priority should be the lives of our people and those serving in the military.  If [Haspel] had told me she would do enhanced interrogation and my son would be saved, I would have said, 'Save my son.'"

James E. Mitchell is the author of Enhanced Interrogation and a psychologist who helped develop the CIA's interrogation program.  He told American Thinker earlier he is of the belief that terrorists are depending on American political correctness to help them.  "We will be standing on the moral high ground looking down into a smoking hole.  In my mind, the temporary discomfort of a terrorist who has voluntarily taken up arms to destroy our way of life does not outweigh my moral obligation to do what I can to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people."

A letter sent to the leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence endorsing Gina Haspel has been signed by more than 50 top national security and intelligence experts including six former CIA directors, three former DNIs, two former secretaries of state, three former United States senators, and several retired high-ranking military officers.

The letter emphasizes that she is willing to step up to the plate and will never shy away from making tough calls to ensure that Americans are unequivocally protected.  It goes on to explain: "During her thirty-year career, she has broad support from the CIA workforce.  Within the U.S. national security community and among our allies around the globe, admiration for her is unsurpassed."  This is evidenced by the numerous awards she received, including the Intelligence Medal of Merit; the George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism; the Donovan Award and a Presidential Rank Award, the highest award in the federal service.

David Cohen, the former CIA director for operations and New York Police Department deputy commissioner for intelligence, recently remarked to American Thinker, "Everyone I know who worked with her raved about her.  She will be a successful CIA director because of her knowledge of the agency: operational, analytical, technical, and supportive elements.  She understands intelligence, the agency's role, and its capabilities.  She never acted in a rogue manner, but did what was consistent with policy, approved and concurred by words of those on the Oversight Committees either through omission or commission, and was deemed legal.  Those on this committee knew about and were briefed on what was done.  If they point the finger at her, someone should point it right back at them.  The actions of CIA officers in the field and at headquarters were scrutinized intensely by congressional investigators, federal prosecutors, and others."

Former CIA director Michael Hayden told American Thinker in an earlier interview, which can apply to Gina Haspel, "I was afraid that congressional actions were creating a risk-averse environment.  They were pushing good people, doing what they did out of duty rather than enthusiasm, into the bus lane.  People will close up when they think no one is covering their back.  The critics of the program are not looking at the overall picture: these techniques were used shortly after 9-11, people were afraid of an imminent attack, and quick answers were desperately needed.  Times have now changed."

These senators who are representatives of the American people should look at the polls.  An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that 51 percent of Americans believed that the harsh interrogation tactics were warranted, while 28 percent said they went too far.  The results virtually matched a Pew Research Center poll that also found 51 percent believing that the CIA's methods were justified, while 29 percent said they were not.  A Washington Post-ABC News poll also found that 59 percent approved of the CIA's tactics, while 31 percent disapproved.  These are almost a two-to-one margin.

Then there is the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director under President Obama.  Democrats willingly looked the other way when he, as deputy executive director at CIA in 2002 and 2003, was a part of the enhanced interrogation program.  Although never admitting to participating directly, he has admitted knowledge of its tactics.  The Showtime documentary Spymasters quotes George Tenet, Brennan's boss, as saying that Brennan had never raised concerns, never expressed discomfort, and never said it should be stopped.

The other criticism that needs to be addressed is Haspel's participation in the destruction of the CIA interrogation videotapes.  Jose Rodriguez, Jr., the CIA's former director of the National Clandestine Service and author of Hard Measures, once told American Thinker: "People under my command and their families were at risk once their faces would have been shown.  Make no mistake: those tapes would have been made public.  No one is reporting that there is a written record of what was on the tapes, a documentation from the lawyers who reviewed the tapes before they were destroyed." 

Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations, concurs in an op-ed: "Haspel provided rationale both for and against the destruction of the tapes to our mutual boss, the head of the clandestine service.  She was as impartial, fair, and balanced as anyone could be in those discussions.  It was only after two CIA lawyers assured us that the destruction of the tapes was both within the authority of the head of the clandestine service and completely legal that our boss, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to order the tapes shredded.  That was Rodriguez's decision – but one I fully supported then and now."

Those who would disagree with Richer and Rodriguez should remember how the Obama administration threw CIA officials under the bus.  Hayden earlier commented: "The administration's release of the interrogation memos was a betrayal of trust and fundamental dishonesty.  President Obama pushed those memos out to protect himself politically since he accepted so many of the Bush administration policies.  I write in my book, Playing to the Edge, about a scene where the president got prickly with a case officer because she wanted to go back and tell people that the CIA interrogations saved lives."  Also important to mention are the terrorist defense lawyers who released information about CIA officials. 

Haspel is a symbol for those working at the CIA.  They have acted honorably and made the right decisions given the circumstances.  It is time people put to rest the accusations because what those in the agency did was to keep Americans safe.  Haspel never concentrated on her career path, but instead focused on the national security of this country.  As Richer wrote, she should be confirmed because she is "a person with no political agenda, high moral character, great integrity and compassion."

The essayist writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

As Mike Pompeo takes his place as secretary of state, his designated successor at the agency he left, the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, is facing a battle for confirmation as the organization's new director.  Opponents have thrown out the argument that Haspel, a CIA veteran, participated in the war on terror over the last two decades.  But Haspel should be confirmed as CIA director because she is on the side of justice and patriotism.  Leftists are criticizing her for making terrorists uncomfortable.  Those against her are willing to ignore her high qualifications and instead criticize her for playing a role in enhanced interrogations.

The argument is absurd.  Leon Panetta, president Obama's CIA director and secretary of defense, said in his book: "The CIA got important, even critical intelligence from individuals subjected to these enhanced interrogation techniques."

Yet critics, as reported in the New York Times, claim she oversaw "torture of terrorists" in the overseas black sites, where enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and confinement were common.  One of the Times articles went on to say the terrorists suffered, "psychological damage."  It never mentioned that Special Forces training includes these enhanced interrogation methods.  These critics are more concerned about those who committed horrific acts of violence than those who suffered at the terrorists' hands.  Not surprisingly the New York Times was not the only media publication trying to defame Haspel.  Other press organs joining the bandwagon have included The Daily Beast, NPR, and the Washington Post, just to name a few.

A 9-11 family member who lost a relative in the massive 2001 terror attack iterated what many families who lost loved ones feel: "people need to take a step back and get off the rhetoric.  Our first priority should be the lives of our people and those serving in the military.  If [Haspel] had told me she would do enhanced interrogation and my son would be saved, I would have said, 'Save my son.'"

James E. Mitchell is the author of Enhanced Interrogation and a psychologist who helped develop the CIA's interrogation program.  He told American Thinker earlier he is of the belief that terrorists are depending on American political correctness to help them.  "We will be standing on the moral high ground looking down into a smoking hole.  In my mind, the temporary discomfort of a terrorist who has voluntarily taken up arms to destroy our way of life does not outweigh my moral obligation to do what I can to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people."

A letter sent to the leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence endorsing Gina Haspel has been signed by more than 50 top national security and intelligence experts including six former CIA directors, three former DNIs, two former secretaries of state, three former United States senators, and several retired high-ranking military officers.

The letter emphasizes that she is willing to step up to the plate and will never shy away from making tough calls to ensure that Americans are unequivocally protected.  It goes on to explain: "During her thirty-year career, she has broad support from the CIA workforce.  Within the U.S. national security community and among our allies around the globe, admiration for her is unsurpassed."  This is evidenced by the numerous awards she received, including the Intelligence Medal of Merit; the George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism; the Donovan Award and a Presidential Rank Award, the highest award in the federal service.

David Cohen, the former CIA director for operations and New York Police Department deputy commissioner for intelligence, recently remarked to American Thinker, "Everyone I know who worked with her raved about her.  She will be a successful CIA director because of her knowledge of the agency: operational, analytical, technical, and supportive elements.  She understands intelligence, the agency's role, and its capabilities.  She never acted in a rogue manner, but did what was consistent with policy, approved and concurred by words of those on the Oversight Committees either through omission or commission, and was deemed legal.  Those on this committee knew about and were briefed on what was done.  If they point the finger at her, someone should point it right back at them.  The actions of CIA officers in the field and at headquarters were scrutinized intensely by congressional investigators, federal prosecutors, and others."

Former CIA director Michael Hayden told American Thinker in an earlier interview, which can apply to Gina Haspel, "I was afraid that congressional actions were creating a risk-averse environment.  They were pushing good people, doing what they did out of duty rather than enthusiasm, into the bus lane.  People will close up when they think no one is covering their back.  The critics of the program are not looking at the overall picture: these techniques were used shortly after 9-11, people were afraid of an imminent attack, and quick answers were desperately needed.  Times have now changed."

These senators who are representatives of the American people should look at the polls.  An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that 51 percent of Americans believed that the harsh interrogation tactics were warranted, while 28 percent said they went too far.  The results virtually matched a Pew Research Center poll that also found 51 percent believing that the CIA's methods were justified, while 29 percent said they were not.  A Washington Post-ABC News poll also found that 59 percent approved of the CIA's tactics, while 31 percent disapproved.  These are almost a two-to-one margin.

Then there is the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director under President Obama.  Democrats willingly looked the other way when he, as deputy executive director at CIA in 2002 and 2003, was a part of the enhanced interrogation program.  Although never admitting to participating directly, he has admitted knowledge of its tactics.  The Showtime documentary Spymasters quotes George Tenet, Brennan's boss, as saying that Brennan had never raised concerns, never expressed discomfort, and never said it should be stopped.

The other criticism that needs to be addressed is Haspel's participation in the destruction of the CIA interrogation videotapes.  Jose Rodriguez, Jr., the CIA's former director of the National Clandestine Service and author of Hard Measures, once told American Thinker: "People under my command and their families were at risk once their faces would have been shown.  Make no mistake: those tapes would have been made public.  No one is reporting that there is a written record of what was on the tapes, a documentation from the lawyers who reviewed the tapes before they were destroyed." 

Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations, concurs in an op-ed: "Haspel provided rationale both for and against the destruction of the tapes to our mutual boss, the head of the clandestine service.  She was as impartial, fair, and balanced as anyone could be in those discussions.  It was only after two CIA lawyers assured us that the destruction of the tapes was both within the authority of the head of the clandestine service and completely legal that our boss, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to order the tapes shredded.  That was Rodriguez's decision – but one I fully supported then and now."

Those who would disagree with Richer and Rodriguez should remember how the Obama administration threw CIA officials under the bus.  Hayden earlier commented: "The administration's release of the interrogation memos was a betrayal of trust and fundamental dishonesty.  President Obama pushed those memos out to protect himself politically since he accepted so many of the Bush administration policies.  I write in my book, Playing to the Edge, about a scene where the president got prickly with a case officer because she wanted to go back and tell people that the CIA interrogations saved lives."  Also important to mention are the terrorist defense lawyers who released information about CIA officials. 

Haspel is a symbol for those working at the CIA.  They have acted honorably and made the right decisions given the circumstances.  It is time people put to rest the accusations because what those in the agency did was to keep Americans safe.  Haspel never concentrated on her career path, but instead focused on the national security of this country.  As Richer wrote, she should be confirmed because she is "a person with no political agenda, high moral character, great integrity and compassion."

The essayist writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.