The Haspel Pick Breaks the Model

Gina Haspel, the President’s nominee for CIA chief, is a CIA bureaucrat with 33 years of service. She is widely respected. She'll not be chewed up by the bureaucracy.  

Democrats who accuse her of torturing terrorists are working from a playbook out of the 1970s. They believe in the efficiency of government and see the CIA as too aggressive, a toppler of leftist dictatorships. That's a historical optic which has little basis in fact. 

Gina never tortured anyone. The challenge facing the CIA is that it is not aggressive enough and has too many sitting, do-nothing bureaucrats located in the Washington D.C. area. 

Clickbait articles tell us that prolonged sitting, even two hours at a time, is bad for the health. It’s probably bad for mental health as well. With a long-term government employee like Gina, we have someone who has been sitting for 10,000 hours, not torturing people. As a senior manager, she’s succeeded by outsitting her competition. 

I’d have preferred as CIA chief a maverick with presidential support such as a John Bolton, or a younger Rudy Giuliani from the days when he cleaned up New York; or a success in another field such as a Bill Belichick; or even a determined leftist such as Tim Cook, CEO of successful and secretive Apple. 

As a Trump supporter I’m always delighted to find the genius in Trump’s actions. Where’s the genius in picking Gina?

Here it is: Gina may have done a great deal of sitting, but she did some of it in foreign countries. She showed an early interest in espionage in foreign lands, and has had multiple, successful foreign assignments. She has shown respect for acquiring foreign languages and skills.

She's a trained reports officer -- a strict gatekeeper in the intelligence process. The phony Trump Dossier would never have gotten past her. Any reports officer would instantly recognize it as fake intelligence and would emphatically block it. It would have been unthinkable to her to circulate it around Washington.

By contrast, former CIA chief and Dossier peddler John Brennan has effectively zero foreign experience, and his foreign language vocabulary is restricted to menu items such as “enchilada.” The message of his career was: to find success in the CIA, slither around Washington for your entire career and avoid anything that looks like espionage.

The genius in the Gina pick is that it breaks that model. It says to employees: Pursuing foreign assignments can be a path to success. Getting the CIA into foreign countries is precisely what we need.

It’s a low bar to hurdle, but Gina is one of the most experienced espionage officers ever nominated for CIA chief.

Ishmael Jones is the pen name of a former CIA case officer.