Trump Names First Woman, ‘Seasoned Spymaster,’ to Head Central Intelligence Agency

Gina Haspel
CIA/AFP/Getty Images

Gina Haspel will be the first woman to head the nation’s top intelligence shop if she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The nomination came after President Donald Trump replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director.

The historic promotion for Haspel, 61, comes one year after she was nominated by Trump to serve as the deputy director of the CIA, a post with responsibilities that include assisting the CIA director with “managing intelligence collection, analysis, covert action, counterintelligence, and liaison relationships with foreign services,” her CIA bio states:

Ms. Haspel is a career intelligence officer, having joined the CIA in 1985. She has extensive overseas experience and served as Chief of Station in several of her assignments. In Washington, she has held numerous senior leadership positions, including as Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service, Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action, and Chief of Staff for the Director of the National Clandestine Service.

Haspel’s bio also states that she has been the recipient of numerous coveted awards, including the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism; the Donovan Award; the Intelligence Medal of Merit; and the Presidential Rank Award — “the most prestigious award in the federal civil service.”

“After thirty years as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, it has been my honor to serve as its Deputy Director alongside Mike Pompeo for the past year,” Haspel said in a statement distributed on Tuesday and included in a Time magazine report. “I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The New York Post reported that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee which oversees the CIA, said he is supporting Haspel’s nomination and will take steps “ensuring its consideration without delay.”

“I know Gina personally, and she has the right skill set, experience, and judgment to lead one of our nation’s most critical agencies,” Burr said.

But despite a stellar resumé and Senate confirmation last year to be Director Pompeo’s deputy, the left is already upset about her nomination because of one of Haspel’s assignments.

The Post reported that Haspel “ran a controversial ‘black site’ prison in Thailand where terror suspects were subjected to brutal interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.”

The seasoned spymaster allegedly helped carry out an order to destroy waterboarding videos, which prompted a Department of Justice probe that ended without charges, sources told the Associated Press.

The CIA prison housed accused terrorists Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, who were waterboarded in 2002.

Liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union use the word “torture” to describe her efforts to gather intelligence from terrorists to thwart future attacks.

But, in fact, when Trump nominated her to be deputy director of the CIA last year, the agency released a wave of positive remarks about Haspel’s nomination. Charles Allen, former assistant director for collection at CIA:

As a CIA officer of 47 years, I can say without reservation that Gina Haspel has my strongest support in her appointment as Deputy Director. A deeply experienced clandestine officer who has held senior positions both at home and abroad, Ms. Haspel is not only an outstanding operations officer but also a recognized program manager and an exceptional leader. She has selflessly dedicated her life to the Agency and to the security of the nation. CIA officers and Intelligence Community leaders writ large will applaud her selection.

James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence:

I am very pleased to learn of Director Pompeo’s selection of Gina Haspel as Deputy Director. It speaks well of him for picking a seasoned veteran of the Agency who is widely and deeply respected by the workforce as well as those outside the Agency. She has the broad-gauged experience from both foreign and domestic assignments to serve as the right-arm for Director Pompeo. I am particularly gratified, since she has also been a strong proponent for integration, not only within CIA but across the Intelligence Community.

Michael Hayden, former CIA director:

What a wonderful choice for Deputy Director, one that will be celebrated by current and former Agency officers alike. Ms. Haspel has responded with dignity, professionalism, and honor to everything the Agency and nation have asked her to do. I am sure that she will be for Director Pompeo what Steve Kappes was for me — a trusted friend, lieutenant, and guide to the sometimes opaque corridors of American espionage.

Michael Morell, former deputy director and twice acting director of CIA:

I applaud the appointment. Ms. Haspel will serve Pompeo, the Agency, and her country extremely well. She is widely respected throughout the Agency, and she will be welcomed in the new job by both current and former employees. I worked closely with Haspel from 2006 until my retirement from the Agency in 2013. During that time, I found her to be simply exceptional. She provides advice based on facts and analysis of facts. She gets things done in a quiet, yet effective way, and she is calm under fire. She appreciates the work of all CIA officers – analysts, scientists, and support specialists, as much as she appreciates operations officers.

Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:

I have had the privilege to work with Ms. Haspel during challenging and intense times for our nation’s security. She is an exceptional leader, patriot and consummate professional. She showed the savvy and grit needed in difficult situations that have garnered respect of colleagues and adversaries alike. Her commitment to the mission and rule of law are unparalleled.

No details on Haspel’s personal life are readily available.

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