Mark Sparkman, a 30-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), penned an op-ed on Monday praising Gina Haspel, who would be its first woman director if approved by the Senate.
Haspel faces a challenging confirmation hearing on Wednesday with a number of Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee criticizing her for her alleged role in the interrogation of terror suspects and the destruction of video documenting those interrogations, even though the CIA itself has cleared her of any wrongdoing.
Mark Sparkman wrote in the Hill that Haspel would be an “exemplary leader who always places mission and country first.”
Thirty years ago, a newly-minted operations officer was dispatched by the Central Intelligence Agency to the front lines of the Cold War in Africa. That officer, Gina Haspel — recently nominated to be the next director of the CIA — was thrust into the most hostile operating environment on the continent. Scores of Soviet Bloc intelligence officers assisted the host government in its efforts to thwart U.S. operations. The U.S. presence was miniscule by comparison.
It was in that context that Ms. Haspel was charged with managing the CIA station’s most sensitive case. She performed admirably and with distinction, putting her career on an upward trajectory as she demonstrated time and again that she could handle any level of responsibility or complexity.
Haspel, Sparkman wrote, would make history not only as the first woman to lead the CIA but also for another distinction:
It has been two generations since the agency was led by an officer drawn from the ranks of the clandestine service. Much will be written about those facts over the coming days. Everyone in the clandestine service and throughout the agency is justifiably proud that the last remnant of the glass ceiling is on the verge of being broken.
Haspel is not only admired by her superiors but also by her peers for paying her dues and for always putting her responsibilities to the agency and loyalty to the nation first, according to Sparkman.
Along the way, she became the first woman to lead one of our largest and most important stations abroad. She served as the chief of staff to the deputy director for operations and later became the associate deputy director for operations. She is now the deputy director of the entire agency. That represents a stellar career with an impressive trajectory.
And that trajectory didn’t happen at the expense of her colleagues, according to Sparkman.
“She is humble, self-effacing, and has risen to where she is today because she cares deeply about the mission of the agency and the dedicated men and women who serve our nation,” Sparkman wrote.
Sparkman said Haspel will be “an excellent leader for the agency and a great addition to the upper ranks of our intelligence community and foreign affairs team.”
“When the U.S. Senate confirms Ms. Haspel, it will be a proud day for the agency and our nation,” Sparkman wrote. “In her, we will be getting an exemplary leader who always places mission and country first.”
“We couldn’t ask for more,” Sparkman wrote.
“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 included in a TIME magazine report published after President Donal Trump nominated her. “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.”
Breitbart News reported Haspel was vindicated by the agency Trump wants her to lead:
The CIA released an eight-page memorandum from then-CIA deputy director Mike Morell to the Senate Intelligence Committee that said Haspel was not responsible for the 2005 destruction of “detainee interrogation videotapes.”
The memo addresses the actions taken by Haspel and her boss, then-director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service (NSC), Jose Rodriguez.
The memo stated, in part:
I have found no fault with the performance of Ms. Haspel. I have concluded that she acted appropriately in her role as Mr. Rodriguez’s chief of staff, including in her efforts to press for and facilitate a resolution of the matter, as well as in her drafting of the cable that authorized the destruction of the tapes.
She drafted the cable on the direct orders of Mr. Rodriguez; she did not release that cable. It was not her decision to destroy the tapes; it was Mr. Rodriguez’s.
In addition, Ms. Haspel claims that she believed — incorrectly, as it turned out — that Mr. Rodriguez was going to obtain approval from then-Director Porter Goss before releasing the cable and that she took action after the release of the cable to ascertain from Mr. Rodriguez whether he had obtained approval.
Although there is no “good soldier” defense in the case of an act that violates the law or agency regulations, the Special Prosecutor evidently found no prosecutable offense, nor did I find a violation of agency regulations.
Sparkman is currently chief intelligence officer for Veretus Group, an investigations and strategic intelligence firm in Washington, D.C.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter