Press: Haspel wrong choice for CIA

Press: Haspel wrong choice for CIA
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The Senate Intelligence Committee faces an unusual dilemma on Wednesday: Why confirm one of the most important federal government jobs to a person who doesn’t really want the job? That’s the case with Gina Haspel, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE’s nominee to be the next CIA director.

According to The Washington Post, unsure about her chances to be confirmed, Haspel informed the White House late last week she wanted to drop out. Only after top White House aides rushed to CIA headquarters and applied presidential pressure did she agree to keep her name in play, prompting Trump to tweet from the sidelines: “Win, Gina.”

For her own sake, and that of the CIA, Haspel would have been better off pulling the plug. The fact is, starting with the CIA, the reputation of our intelligence agencies is in worse shape today than at any time since the 1970s. The confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director could only make matters worse.

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Abuses by the CIA, NSA, FBI and IRS were so blatant in the ’70s that Congress created a special, bipartisan investigative committee, headed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), to look into the roles played by federal agencies in assassination attempts on foreign leaders, covert attempts to subvert duly-elected foreign governments, creation of an NSA “Watch List” of prominent American citizens, hiring members of the Sicilian Mafia to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro, and engaging in or sponsoring others who engaged in torture, specifically classified as a war crime by the Geneva Conventions.


Today those same intelligence agencies are again in hot water: the NSA, for spying on phone calls and emails of American citizens; the FBI, for playing politics with the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton‘Prosperity and peace’ is the winning Republican theme for midterms Mueller recommends Papadopoulos be sentenced to up to 6 months in prison Poll: Dem opponent leads Scott Walker by 5 points MORE email investigation; and the CIA, for its role in torture of suspected terrorists after 9/11. And now President Trump has nominated Haspel, one of the leaders of the torture program, to head the CIA. She’s the wrong person at the wrong time. Just when the CIA needs a new look, she would mire the agency in the sins of the past.

Haspel, who’s been with the CIA for 33 years, has two big strikes against her. In 2002, she was in charge of “Detention Site Greene” in Thailand, one of the 10 “black site” prisons set up by the Bush administration in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, to interrogate suspected terrorists. According to the 2012 report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, at least one prisoner was waterboarded on her watch; another, before she arrived.

That’s not all. Three years later, Haspel was the subject of a special prosecutor’s investigation for her role in the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes of the two waterboarding incidents. She drafted the cable that her boss sent to field officers, ordering them to shred the tapes. Even though the prosecutor filed no charges against Haspel, she still bears the stain of presiding over a torture chamber and destroying evidence of it. Exactly the image the CIA does not need right now.

The CIA’s reputation suffered under George W. Bush by cherry-picking intelligence to justify the war in Iraq, unleashing killer drones and engaging in torture. It’s time for the CIA to shred that dark past. As director, Gina Haspel would only prolong it.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: Life in the Crossfire.”