The hearings that are on-going on Capitol Hill are being far more contentious than they should have ever been for President Trump’s nominee to become the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gina Haspel has been a dedicated public servant and has had a long distinguished career in the Agency working her way up the ladder to the Deputy Director position, she now holds and is currently the Acting Director since Mike Pompeo became the Secretary of State.  Haspel is a perfect choice to lead the Agency into the next several years.

If she is confirmed, and it isn’t a very sure thing she will be, she’ll be the first woman director for the agency in their 70 plus year history. She is already the first woman to hold the Deputy Director’s position. And that is long overdue. But being a qualified woman is just a small part of the reason she should be confirmed. As a career intelligence professional, she’s the most qualified person period.  

She began her agency career in 1985 in Africa and worked her way up thru the ranks and has been a Station Chief in four different postings. She was also named by Director John Brennan as the acting Director of the National Clandestine Service, which carries out covert operations around the world.

Many women have been in the Clandestine Service since OSS operatives in World War II including Julia Child and the famous “Limping Lady” Virginia Hall, the only civilian to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as a Jedburgh in occupied France. Although women have and continue to serve in sensitive positions in the agency, none have risen as far as Haspel.

What is holding Haspel back is her assignment as the Black Ops chief at a base in Thailand where al Qaeda terrorists were sent for “enhanced interrogation” which included waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Many critics of the program called it torture. Whatever it was, at the time it was legal.

America wasn’t worried about the rights of terrorists after 9/11 and the Bush administration cleared it thru the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) which operated far above Haspel’s pay grade at the time. Haspel herself told the Senate that she doesn’t support and will not condone the use of torture under her watch.

As former CIA operative Jack Devine wrote in an opinion piece on NBC News, he considers Haspel as the best person for the job despite the “torture” issue.

“When evaluating Haspel’s record on this issue, as Congress surely will do during its confirmation hearings, we must keep in mind both the national mindset at that time the torture occurred and the reality of Haspel’s role in it. This is not to minimize the program, but rather to contextualize it.”

“In the aftermath of 9/11, the American people were looking for a forceful and robust response against Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist cohorts. There were very few voices of restraint, including in most senior leadership positions across President George W. Bush’s administration.”

In the days after 9/11 no one in America was worried about the rights of terrorists, just to stop the next attacks.

“Three former CIA directors — George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden — have all insisted that torture did indeed save American lives, led to the capture and demise of the Al Qaeda organization and disrupted terrorist plots. They also insist that Bush approved the program, his attorney general deemed it legal and the Congressional leadership did not raise objections.”

Under the Obama administration, they laid that torture business to rest. An investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of the agency employees and decided that no further action was called for. They then spelled out in no uncertain terms that that kind of operation would not be used again.

And yet now, they (Congress) are trying to derail Haspel from attaining a rank she is eminently qualified to hold. They should listen to the intelligence professionals from both the left and the right who support her nomination. Those include former Obama CIA director Leon Panetta, Michael Hayden, former head of both the CIA and the National Security Agency under George W. Bush, James Clapper, former director of national intelligence in the Obama administration. Haspel has the backing of John Brennan, CIA director under Obama. Brennan it should be noted is a vocal critic of President Trump.

Jeremy Bash, who was the CIA’s Chief of Staff in the Obama Administration called Haspel the “nominee that both parties should love.”

He wrote that “Quite simply, she is among the most qualified people ever nominated to lead the CIA.”

“Democrats and progressive organizations should be encouraged that a nonpartisan, professional woman has been nominated to be CIA director,” he wrote. “Democratic and Republican Senators should welcome Haspel’s clear-eyed approach to Russia, her expertise in counterterrorism, her record of nonpolitical service and the fact that she is no crony of the president or anyone at the White House.”

This stonewalling by the Democrats is nothing more than a way to trump Trump. They are smarting over the Iran nuclear deal and the President’s acerbic ways, especially on social media. The president gets a lot of criticism for his supposed poor treatment of women and minorities and when he nominates a superbly qualified non-partisan woman to take the job, the same progressives that decry Trump then bend over backward to derail the nominee.

We’re entering a period of intense challenges in the intelligence field. The tensions with Russia are the worst since the Cold War. China has modernized and expanded its military influence across the globe and they too are becoming more and more belligerent towards the United States. Iran is trying to increase their influence throughout the Middle East thru their proxies and increasingly so in Latin America. We have long wars that show no sign of ending in Afghanistan and Iraq. Syria is powder keg with factions from all sides in close proximity to each other.

The Director of Central Intelligence needs to be a season professional, not just another political appointee. If confirmed she’ll not only be the first woman as head of Central Intelligence but the first Director since Richard Helms in 1966 to be a career employee who rose up through the ranks to take charge. It is long overdue.

Photo: Wikipedia of Central Intelligence Director nominee Gina Haspel at the swearing-in ceremony of Mike Pompeo as the next Secretary of State.