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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 ClapperWrong for Democrats to call for more Kavanaugh investigations The Hill's Morning Report — Where the Kavanaugh nomination stands Hillicon Valley: 50M affected by Facebook hack | Google CEO to testify on Capitol Hill | Tesla shares slump after SEC sues | House Intel votes to release Russia probe transcripts | Dem holds up passage of key intel bill MORE, and former attorney general Michael Mukasey. For 16 months as deputy director under Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE, Ms. Haspel won his trust and that of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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 PaulSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks 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 HolderNow is not the time to reject civility Former Clinton aide Reines: ‘Party of snowflakes’ suddenly remodeled as 'angry mob of terrorists’ Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? 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.