Several intelligence officials said Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, has done some of the intelligence community’s “best work” in Russian operations, but the public and the Senate that must confirm her might never know it.
Michael Morell, former acting CIA director under former President Barack Obama, laid out a list of things the public might not know about Haspel, and cannot reasonably expect to know much about.
“Because she has lived a life in the shadows, there’s much the public doesn’t know about her,” Morell said on his podcast “The Cipher Brief,” interviewing the former CIA director under former President George W. Bush, Michael Hayden.
The CIA has declassified some biographical information about Haspel and a broad outline of her career in recent weeks, but many Senate members are still opposed to her nomination.
The public doesn’t “know that she’s served in some of the most dangerous places on the planet,” Morell said. “They don’t know that she’s been shot, and she still has the bullet that hit the tire of the car she was in when she was shot at. They don’t know that she survived a coup d’état.”
“And, they don’t know that she’s done some of the agency’s best work against the Russians,” he said.
“Yeah. Lots of reasons,” Hayden said, before using a football metaphor to explain why the Senate should choose Haspel. “My team, the Steelers, always has one law: The best athlete available, pick him. Gina is the best athlete available … I can’t think of anyone else that’s even close to her that would bring the necessary credentials, respect, authenticity to the job.”
Haspel was part of the European and Central Eurasian operations in the early 1990s, just after the fall of the Soviet Union, according to the CIA’s timeline. She learned Russian and Turkish while in the CIA, and was an intelligence operations officer for the Russian group in 1993. She eventually became a station chief, then a group chief for Russian operations, working in the central Eurasia division.
Despite the release of Haspel’s career information Tuesday and a 2011 memo that purported to absolve the career spy of wrongdoing in the alleged destruction of video tapes said to show waterboarding operations, Democrats said the CIA is still withholding too much information.
That memo, written by none other than Morell when he was deputy director of the CIA, was a disciplinary review that looked at Haspel and her then-boss Jose Rodriguez, the director of the National Clandestine Service at the time. Morrell cleared Haspel of wrongdoing, as she was following Rodriguez’s orders to direct the destruction of videos that showed interrogation, and made efforts to ensure that Rodriguez had the appropriate authority to destroy the tapes.
The CIA has reportedly offered a secure room for members of the Senate Committee on Intelligence to view some documents that are still classified, but committee Democrats rejected that offer, saying they needed more public transparency.
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