President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. As a strong supporter of her nomination, I expect she will do very well. Despite her opponents’ attempts to paint her as an ideological zealot, Haspel is a consummate professional whose record of accomplishment, bipartisan support, and clear love of country make her an excellent choice to lead our nation’s top intelligence agency. Unlike many nominees in recent years, Haspel isn’t the representative of a political faction. She’s a career intelligence officer with over 30 years of experience. Haspel joined the CIA in 1985, working as a case officer for several years in both Africa and Europe. Over time, she rose up the ranks, serving as deputy director of the National Clandestine Service and chief of staff for the director of operations. In addition, Haspel served as chief of station – that is, the agent responsible for overseeing all of the CIA’s work in a foreign country – four times. If confirmed, she would be the first CIA director in decades who has spent her entire career at the agency – as well as the first woman to lead the agency. Having served under six different presidents from both parties, Haspel is far from an ideologue. She’s an institutionalist who has put in so many years of work that she commands respect throughout the rank and file at the CIA. Haspel’s opponents have tried to use a small sliver of her career against her by arguing, essentially, that she was just too tough on Al Qaeda for this country to bear. But I’d argue that her willingness to serve in what was a highly stressful post only enhances the case for her confirmation. In the early 2000s, as the fight against Islamist terrorism heated up, Haspel asked to be reassigned to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, where her first day on the job was Sept. 11, 2001. It’s easy to forget that we lost 3,000 Americans that day in the worst attacks on American soil since Pearl Harbor – and that this was an especially trying time for all those working on national security. As former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently said: “If you were not in a position of authority on 9/11, you have no idea the pressures we faced to make sure that this country wasn’t attacked again.” And yet Haspel volunteered for the mission, later earning the George H.W. Bush Award, granted for excellence in counterterrorism; the Intelligence Medal of Merit; and the Presidential Rank Award, the most prestigious distinction in all of federal civil service. It’s true, as her critics charge, that Haspel was involved in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, but once again, their potshots miss the mark. The president approved this program, Congress was fully briefed on it, and it included multiple layers of legal review.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is spot on here. Gina is eminently qualified for the job and hope the Senate will confirm her soon. For those of you who may not know, Sen. Cotton is a former solider/warrior who enlisted and then later became an officer, rising to the rank of Captain. He was an “airborne Ranger” who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star, among other medals. So, the man isn’t some political hack. He’s a warrior who recognizes a patriot like Gina, when he sees her. To read the rest of Sen. Cotton’s op/ed, click on the text above. 🙂