Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee for Central Intelligence Agency Director, has earned the support of one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), but her nomination process is far from finished. And her confirmation is not yet certain. It’s quite possible that other red state Democrats who will be fighting for their political lives this season will follow suit. In the meantime, we have to choke on the bipartisan hypocrisy over her nomination. Haspel has had a lengthy and honorable career as an intelligence operative and official. She’s spent over thirty years at the CIA. She’s beyond qualified to lead the agency. She’s a patriot and has done things to protect us all. That being said, she was nominated by Trump, so she’s the devil incarnate to the Left. If Obama had nominated her, it would be a watershed moment: the first woman director with impeccable credentials that’s a worthy chapter in the Lean In era of feminism and women in the workplace. But again, she’s a Trump nominee, so she’s not any of those things. Proof positive that to be considered even a woman in the ranks of the feminist left, you have to be a liberal and you can only work with liberals. I honestly have no clue what Haspel’s political views are and I don’t care. In this line of work, no one cares about your views of abortion, tax cuts, or gun rights, which makes feminist criticism of her nomination all the more maddening. It’s a clown show. It’s red meat to serve to the Democratic base—and it’s appallingly shameless.
MSNBC, which is not a friendly territory for this administration, even pointed this out this morning. Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with Senate Democrats, said he would oppose Haspel. No legitimate reason was given, but one could conclude it’s because Trump nominated her. Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough asked if yesterday’s hearing was just a sideshow for the Democratic base because no one could be that stupid and not know what Haspel was going to respond concerning our waterboarding program.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: But Senator, Joe Scarborough here, when you were asking her that question, you knew the answer to that question, right?
ANGUS KING: Well, I thought I did. But I wanted -- and I was sort of giving her an opportunity to answer it. And she – as you saw, I had to ask it three times. My impression was that she was making these decisions, but I sort of couldn't believe it.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. But you –
KING: I couldn’t believe it –
SCARBOROUGH: But, you also though – there’s also a lot of information that you could have gotten if the cameras were turned off and people were taken out of the room. I mean, it’s just like Diane Feinstein asked a question that she knew she could not answer in a public committee hearing, and also knew that if the room were cleared and the cameras were turned off, you all could get the information. Was this just a sideshow for your base?
KING: No, no, no.
Guest co-host Mike Barnicle asked King if he thought Haspel was competent. King admitted she was.
“If not her, who,” replied Barnicle.
“Well, that’s a good question,” said King
Yeah, because the answer is it’s Haspel. Democrats really have no leg to stand on with this opposition campaign; they support John Brennan, who was a top CIA official under Bush and when the enhanced interrogation program was active. Virtually the entire Senate Democratic caucus backed him, so let’s take a trip down memory lane to his remarks about the program (via Politico c. 2014) [emphasis mine]:
During his February 2013 confirmation hearings to be CIA director, John Brennan told senators he had come to doubt his previously held view — formed as a top agency official — that brutal CIA interrogation techniques had yielded valuable intelligence.
Brennan came to question that premise, he told the Senate Intelligence Committee, after reading an unreleased summary of the panel’s 6,000-page report on the question. The report “raises serious questions about the information that I was given” while at the CIA, Brennan said. That echoed the committee’s finding that the CIA had misled Bush White House officials and the public about the effectiveness of tactics like waterboarding.
“I do not know what the truth is,” Brennan said.
Now that he leads the CIA, Brennan has returned to his original conclusion: The truth is on his agency’s side. In a statement responding to the public release of the report’s official summary Tuesday, Brennan defended his agency — and the fruits of severe interrogation practices.
Enhanced interrogation techniques “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives, Brennan said, citing an unreleased internal CIA review.
“The intelligence gained from the program,” he added, “was critical to our understanding of al Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”
Brennan’s strong defense of the agency put him at odds with many congressional Democrats, and even President Barack Obama, who issued a much tougher response. While Brennan’s statement euphemistically allowed that the agency “made mistakes,” it devoted more words to challenging the Senate panel’s findings and methods.
It is the latest twist in Brennan’s tangled history with the CIA’s enhanced interrogations. He has repeatedly disavowed any personal role in the harsh practices that occurred when he was a senior official at the agency in the Bush era. Questions about his knowledge and oversight of those practices dissuaded Obama from a plan to name Brennan as his first CIA director in 2009.
NY Post editorial board touched upon this hypocrisy as well, with an added zinger here:
…the CIA fully briefed Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats in Congress on what it was doing in those scary early days of the War on Terror, and none objected.
Haspel was plainly doing her job when (as chief of staff for the CIA leader who actually made the call) she played a role in destroying videos of interrogations in order to prevent them from being leaked (as similar info then was) and so endangering the lives of men and women who’d been trying to protect this country.
A 30-year veteran already serving as acting CIA chief, Haspel would be the first woman to lead the agency and the first director in decades who’s spent her entire career there. She has the enthusiastic support of pretty much anyone who’s ever worked with her, including several top Obama officials who are now loudly anti-Trump.
Any Democrats voting against her, especially those who voted to confirm Brennan, ought to give a good explanation why. They could cite the statement opposing her from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed…
I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country & has devoted her professional life to its service & defense. However, her role in overseeing the use of torture is disturbing & her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. https://t.co/ocDtdqU2Sx— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 10, 2018
Opposition to Haspel has now become bipartisan with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) urging the Senate to reject her nomination over enhanced interrogation. He also voted for Brennan. Democrats have long tried to shed the reputation that they’re weak on defense and national security. They still are, but they’re now taking it a bit further: they’re willing to put America at risk because they lost an election.