By Megan Lehman
Since April 26, Gina Haspel has been serving as Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Upon President Trump tapping Mike Pompeo for the role of Secretary of State, conversations of making Haspel the official Director of the CIA has been a hot topic. Praised for being the most prepared person to take on this role by some, others have claimed Haspel has serious controversy following her and is not worthy of the role.
Gina Haspel joined the CIA in in 1985 as a reports officer and held several overseas positions, during many of which she obtained the position of station chief. From October and December of 2002 under the Bush Administration, Haspel oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand. Code named Cat’s Eye, this prison was known for housing and interrogating persons suspected of involvement with Al-Qaeda.
Cat’s Eye was part of the U.S. government’s extraordinary rendition program that was launched in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. This program allowed for abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one country to another, predominantly carried out by the US government with the consent of other countries.
Haspel has received numerous awards and recognitions for her service and, specifically, her excellence in counterterrorism. Despite this career excellence, controversy over her time as station chief at the black site, Cat’s Eye, has followed for years. The controversy involves the use of torture, such as waterboarding, within the Thailand prison and the destruction of interrogation videotapes. Those video tapes, 92 of them to be exact, depicted the torture of detainees at Cat’s Eye and other CIA black sites.
During her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, many found fault with Haspel’s unwillingness to criticize the CIA’s previous techniques. She did however state, “I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it.”
I respect her desire to not speak ill of a company that she has put so much of herself in to, but there is something to be said for someone who can recognize where we went wrong and how we can improve.
Senators Rand Paul and John McCain have both spoken out about Haspel and how her experience with torture should make her morals so questionable that she should not be considered for the position of Director of the CIA.
Senator Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, has made his support for Haspel well known, stating that he has “found Gina Haspel to be a person of great character.”
“Over her 33 year career as a CIA operations officer, she has worked in some of the most dangerous corners of our world and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices she has made for our country,” Manchin added. “She has earned the trust of her colleagues in the intelligence community and her intellect, steady temperament, vast knowledge of threats we face, and dedication to our country are undeniable. These attributes make her supremely qualified to serve as our next CIA Director.”
Will the Senate see Haspel for her success or will they see her for the choice she made to allow torture at the black site that she oversaw? One may call this a mistake, but naming torture as a mistake somehow seems to diminish the impact it truly had. Does this one decision make her ineligible for a position that she is otherwise so much more than qualified for?
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, we’re looking at you.