Gina Haspel is exactly the type of leader the CIA needs today

Gina Haspel is exactly the type of leader the CIA needs today
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Gina Haspel’s nomination to become director of the CIA comes at an opportune time, given her understanding of the threat posed by Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, and her years of work to defeat Islamic terrorism, swiftly leading operations that led to the capture and imprisonment of terrorists. As the first career CIA employee nominated to lead the organization in many decades, she is an outstanding nominee with a sterling record and reputation. 

During her 33-year career, Ms. Haspel has worked in the field as an operations officer and as a chief of station in multiple countries. She speaks several languages, and has served in senior roles within the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and its National Clandestine Service, the unit responsible for covert actions around the world. As a deputy director and now acting director of the CIA, she has won awards for her distinguished service and excellence in intelligence and counterterrorism.

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Along with colleagues who sing her praises, a bipartisan group of national security luminaries supports her nomination — among them, former secretary of defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former National Intelligence director James ClapperJames Robert ClapperMedia can’t admit Trump just had his best 24 hours Clapper gives Putin what he wants with 2016 election assessment Clapper: Trump won't fire Mueller, he'll just keep undermining his investigation MORE, and former attorney general Michael Mukasey. For 16 months as deputy director under Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoEven without hostility, North Korea diplomacy means mistrust and verify North Korea looked to set up communications back channel through Kushner: report Trump rattles Pentagon with Korea war games decision MORE, Ms. Haspel won his trust and that of President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE, working to keep America safe.  

 

She is exactly the type of the leader the CIA needs today. As an officer who once recruited informants, she understands the unique insights that human intelligence can provide about “hard targets” such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Perhaps the greatest asset she brings to the role is her intimate understanding of the strengths and limits of the CIA. She needs no time to learn the ropes. Furthermore, as a career officer, her natural bias will be to deliver the clearest and most accurate insights possible without prejudice.

This is the reason for the CIA’s existence: providing unrivaled intelligence that enables a president to make well-informed decisions.

With a background such as this, her nomination and approval by the Senate should be a dead certainty. Regrettably, it’s not. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul's neighbor sentenced to 30 days in prison over assault Dems best GOP as Scalise returns for annual charity baseball game The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? MORE (R-Ky.) and many Democrats are refusing to support her because of misinformation about her role in a decision to destroy video tapes that documented the enhanced interrogation of two suspected al Qaeda operatives. Her boss, the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, chose to destroy the tapes based on the concern that they would identify CIA personnel involved in the interrogations.

As Jeremy Bash — the former chief counsel to the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and chief of staff to the CIA under President Obama — wrote a few days ago, the House investigation was overtaken by criminal review by the Department of Justice. It revealed no violations of the law. A second, broader review was conducted by President Obama’s attorney general, Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderHolder redistricting group backs lawsuits for 3 additional majority-black congressional districts Liberal groups launches ads against prospective Trump Supreme Court nominees Ready for somebody? Dems lack heir apparent this time MORE, and again, the department determined that no CIA officer should be prosecuted. With his intimate knowledge of the facts, it is compelling that Mr. Bash has strongly endorsed her nomination. 

It’s a shame that some senators are impugning Ms. Haspel’s character and distinguished record of service for purposes of placating a political base that appears to have little interest in facts.  After giving more than three decades of her adult life to keep America safe, she is well qualified to lead the CIA.

America needs a strong, knowledgeable leader at the CIA. President Trump has nominated one. Senators should support Gina Haspel because of her proven leadership and experience. Now is not the time to play political theater with an important national security agency. Call, email and write your senators to approve her nomination.

Matthew Heiman is a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. Previously, he was a lawyer with the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq.