Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to run the CIA, is expected to field tough questions Wednesday during her confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee, as many officials in her corner provide glowing endorsements of the woman who spent decades as a career undercover spy.
Haspel, 61, is expected to say that if she is confirmed by the Senate, the spy agency will not restart a detention and harsh interrogation program like the one used to get terror subjects to talk after 9/11 — and generated controversy worldwide.
She will say: “Our strategy starts with strengthening our core business: collecting intelligence to help policymakers protect our country and advance American interests around the globe. It includes raising our investment against the most difficult intelligence gaps, putting more officers in the foreign field where our adversaries are, and emphasizing foreign language excellence. And, finally, it involves investing in our partnerships — both within the U.S. government and around the globe.”
In other excerpts, Haspel pledges to work closely with the Senate oversight committee. And, she says there has been an outpouring of support from young women at the CIA who hope she becomes the first woman to run the agency.
Many former top intelligence officials also praise her 33-year tenure at the agency in foreign and domestic assignments.
“She has served in some really tough places, high-risk hardship posts, and has performed some extraordinary operations,” former CIA official Henry “Hank” Crumpton, who was Haspel’s boss in the agency’s National Resources Division, told The Washington Post.
As The Hill reported, 36 former CIA chiefs, intelligence community leaders and lawmakers signed a letter of endorsement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, calling her “a critical asset for our nation at this time in our history… when our intelligence community is under significant pressure at home and abroad.”
The letter reiterated that although “Haspel was often called upon to make tough choices and to work on matters that some find deeply controversial… she did so with dedication and commitment to the cause of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”
Meantime, dozens of defenders from both parties have pulled out the stops to support her nomination process, as Fox News previously reported.
The White House released talking points Tuesday night ahead of the confirmation hearing insisting that “Haspel has served her nation honorably and acted legally,” and that any objections were putting political interests ahead of national security and her tenure of defending Americans.
Quoting her backers from the intelligence community, the White House called Haspel the best choice to safeguard the U.S. — ”a woman of integrity” with a “high moral character,” who is “unfailingly honest” and “committed to the rule of law.”
“She’s never lobbied for a job,” one of her former CIA bosses said in The Post. “The jobs searched for her.”
At the hearing Haspel is expected to face a grilling from senators who want details of her connections to the controversial “enhanced interrogation” program, which critics have called torture.
Critics have argued that while U.S. military personnel had been punished for human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and elsewhere, few intelligence professionals during previous administrations were reprimanded for their activities with the detention and interrogation program that had been approved by the White House and reviewed and approved by the Justice Department.
Last month, the CIA released a memo showing Haspel was cleared of wrongdoing in the destruction of videotapes at a covert detention site in Thailand, after her boss dispatched the order in 2005. The memo, written in 2011, summarizes a disciplinary review conducted by then-CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell. He said that while Haspel was one of the two officers “directly involved in the decision to destroy the tapes,” he “found no fault” with what she did.
As the hearing nears, Haspel’s critics have stepped up their opposition, arguing that anyone who willingly participated in one of the CIA’s darkest chapters should not be at the helm of the spy agency. They’ve argued that having Haspel as the face of U.S. intelligence would undercut America’s effort to champion human rights.
A confirmation of Haspel could be interpreted overseas as implicit approval of a harsh detention and interrogation program, Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria and fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton refuted oppositional claims in a commentary in Fox News. “Instead of demonstrating a troubling tendency to go rogue, Haspel’s tenure shows a fierce dedication to the CIA’s mission and to keeping this country safe,” the Arkansas senator wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.