I was hopeful that Mike Pompeo would be the kind of kickass CIA director needed to transform that agency into one feared by our enemies rather that John Brennan’s seething cesspool of political correctness fixated on each other’s nether regions. One of the big problem is that somewhere along the way the path to the top in the CIA became the analyst-presidential briefer route rather that the field operatives who had run agents, developed network, and dirtied their hands in actual operations. Because noting qualifies you for telling other people how to do something like navel gazing on the subject and avoiding direct experience.
Today I’m encouraged that the CIA might have turned that first corner:
As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.
On Thursday, Ms. Haspel was named the deputy director of the C.I.A.
The elevation of Ms. Haspel, a veteran widely respected among her colleagues, to the No. 2 job at the C.I.A. was a rare public signal of how, under the Trump administration, the agency is being led by officials who appear to take a far kinder view of one of its darker chapters than their immediate predecessors.
Over the past eight years, C.I.A. leaders defended dozens of agency personnel who had taken part in the now-banned torture program, even as they vowed never to resume the same harsh interrogation methods. But President Trump has said repeatedly that he thinks torture works. And the new C.I.A. chief, Mike Pompeo, has said that waterboarding and other techniques do not even constitute torture, and praised as “patriots” those who used such methods in the early days of the fight against Al Qaeda.
Ms. Haspel, who has spent most of her career undercover, would certainly fall within Mr. Pompeo’s description. She played a direct role in the C.I.A.’s “extraordinary rendition program,” under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.
The C.I.A.’s first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Ms. Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
There is so much awesome in here that I don’t know where to start. First, it is a clear signal to the agency that the operators are in charge, not the pencil necks who have ruled the roost for years. Second, it is a signal that Mike Pompeo sees participating in the clandestine war against al-Qaeda, with all its warts, as a feature not a bug. Back in 2013 Ms. Haspel was in line to be made head of the CIA’s clandestine service and her promotion was stopped by Dianne Feinstein because Feinstein found her work in keeping the nation safe to be very distasteful.
Naturally, the usual suspects are incensed:
Mr. Pompeo “must explain to the American people how his promotion of someone allegedly involved in running a torture site squares with his own sworn promises to Congress that he will reject all forms of torture and abuse,” said Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s office in Washington.
Gina Haspel, directly involved in the most grotesque torture abuses, will now help lead the CIA. https://t.co/nQYa5u6d9I
— The Intercept (@theintercept) February 2, 2017
New CIA Deputy Director, Gina Haspel, ex London station chief, is connected to CIA torture program. She ran CIA black site in Thailand https://t.co/raH90NHSeA
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) February 2, 2017
The only way we are going to make headway against Islamic terrorism is by taking prisoners and wringing them dry. The only way we are going to wring them dry is by extraordinary rendition or by CIA blacksites where they can be interrogated in depth before their arrival at Guantanamo and declaration to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Ms. Haspel is a clear indication that the CIA may be back in the intelligence business.