President Donald Trump nominated Haspel to replace Mike Pompeo, who was recently sworn in as the nation's 70 secretary of state after a hard confirmation fight.
"My highly respected nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on terrorists", Trump declared. This is a woman who has been a leader wherever she has gone.
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The White House has rallied behind Haspel for the position, even though questions over her past in the CIA are likely to come up at Wednesday's confirmation hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee. She would be the first woman to lead the CIA and is the first career operations officer to be nominated to lead the agency in decades. Haspel has her fingerprints over some of the most controversial practices of the Bush regime.
Robert Ford, former USA ambassador to Syria and fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said that while US military personnel had been punished for human rights abuses such as at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, few intelligence professionals 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. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
On Monday, news organizations reported criticism of Melania Trump's anti-cyberbullying "Be Best" initiative, with the president himself having frequently used Twitter to abuse and threaten opponents. It will be hard for the people who work for her to hear that. She served nearly entirely undercover and much of her record is classified.
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She has told lawmakers in recent weeks that she would stand firm against any effort to restart the detention and interrogation program, administration officials told The Associated Press on Friday. She will have the opportunity to provide more details about her tenure during a closed-door hearing following her public testimony.
After Haspel's offer to withdraw, White House aides worked to reassure her that she had the president's support. That would be the Gina Haspel who ran one of the Bush/Cheney black prisons where torture was conducted and who also oversaw the destruction of the evidence of that torture.
In an April 24 letter to Feinstein and other senators, Jaime Cheshire, the CIA's director of congressional affairs, said the agency is committed to providing a "complete picture" of Haspel's 33-year CIA career, including her time working in its counterterrorism center. Senators including Rand Paul, R-Ky., say they won't support her.
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Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, on Sunday called Haspel a highly qualified nominee. He said "there's a huge amount still to be learned" about Haspel's previous work, which is "a ideal test of what she might face right now".