There are a variety of chat groups of former CIA intelligence officers and those networks lit up Thursday with news that Gina Haspel was being named as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence. Here is the CIA release:
For Immediate Release:
2 February 2017
Gina Haspel Selected to be Deputy Director of CIA
CIA Director Mike Pompeo today announced that President Trump has selected Gina Haspel to be the new Deputy Director of CIA.
“Gina is an exemplary intelligence officer and a devoted patriot who brings more than 30 years of Agency experience to the job. She is also a proven leader with an uncanny ability to get things done and to inspire those around her,” said Director Pompeo. “We are fortunate that someone of her intellect, skill, and experience will be our Deputy Director. I know she will do an outstanding job, and I look forward to working with her closely in the years ahead.”
Ms. Haspel is a career intelligence officer, having joined the CIA in 1985. She has extensive overseas experience and served as Chief of Station in several of her assignments.
Gina joined the Agency the same year I did, but I never knew her. So I started calling friends to inquire if they knew her. She comes with some real baggage:
A CIA officer who was the first woman to lead the agency’s clandestine service, but was also directly involved in its controversial interrogation program, will not get to keep that job as part of a management shake-up announced Tuesday by CIA Director John O. Brennan. . . .
But she faced opposition because of her extensive role in an interrogation program that critics have said relied on torture to get information from al-Qaeda captives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She had run a secret prison in Thailand where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques. She later helped order the destruction of videotapes of those interrogation sessions.
One of my close friends who ran CIA stations in Africa and Europe commented that he was very disappointed in hearing this news. I asked why. He said, “she is too willing and eager to play politics with intel.”
Gina was described to me by another former intelligence officer as a protege of Jose Rodriguez (he was the Director of Ops when the torture/water boarding video tapes were destroyed). NY Times reports she has the support of the Washington swamp:
Within the C.I.A., Ms. Haspel is similarly respected, and the agency’s announcement about her promotion came with a long list of testimonials from retired officials, much as prominent authors write blurbs for the back of other writers’ books. The list notably included prominent Obama administration officials, such as James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence (“very pleased”), and Michael J. Morell, who twice served as the C.I.A.’s acting director (“I applaud the appointment”).
The mere fact that Clapper and Morell think this is a swell appointment should scare the hell out of Donald Trump. Both men reflect the essence of the evil and incompetence that has damaged the CIA over the last 15 years. Putting someone with Haspel’s questionable record in the number two slot sends a message that excellence and accountability are not relevant qualities when it comes to getting promoted. Instead, being the good toady is the key for getting promoted. As long as you play the politics and don’t mind kissing a lot of ample derrieres, you can advance to the top in Washington. That is true at the EPA and true at the CIA.
One measure for judging how well a President is doing his job is to look at the people he selects for leadership positions. On this particular choice at the CIA, Trump has fumbled the ball. Let’s hope this is an aberration. I do believe in the principle of redemption and maybe Ms. Haspel has recognized her past failings and resolved to do better. I doubt it, but will be happy to be proved wrong.
UPDATE–Just saw the Dexter Filkins’ piece on this in the New Yorker. He correctly notes that Haspel owes her ability to continue to work in the CIA in large part to Barack Obama:
In 2002, according to people I spoke to, Haspel was present at a C.I.A. black site in Thailand when Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were being tortured. It’s not clear whether she took part in the interrogations themselves. Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation, which is recounted in the Intelligence Committee’s landmark investigation, was particularly gruesome. According to the report, he was waterboarded eighty-three times; at one point, he became non-responsive, with water bubbling up from his lungs. Doctors had to revive him. During his confinement, Zubaydah lost sight in his left eye.
In 2003, Haspel became the chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, then the director of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center. Later, when Rodriguez became the director of operations—that is, of covert operations—Haspel became his chief of staff. In 2005, Haspel was involved in the decision to destroy the videotapes of the interrogations of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri. The decision, which was made with no apparent outside consultation, enraged members of Congress, who are legally obliged to oversee the C.I.A.
Sifton, of Human Rights Watch, said the order to destroy the tapes was made by two people: Rodriguez and Hapsel.
When Obama took office, in 2009, he declared that he would not prosecute anyone involved in the C.I.A.’s interrogation programs, not even senior officers, among whom Haspel was one. At the time, Obama said he wanted to look forward and not back. But the past, as Obama well knows, never goes away. With the prospect of American torture looming again, I wonder if Obama regrets his decision. After all, people like Haspel, quite plausibly, could have gone to prison.