Op-Ed

I know Gina Haspel. She’s the best pick for the CIA.

Gina Haspel has been nominated to head the CIA.
Gina Haspel has been nominated to head the CIA. GETTY IMAGES

Over the past few days, I have seen several former intelligence and law enforcement officials attack the nomination of Gina Haspel as the next director of the CIA. These individuals either do not know Haspel or do not know her well.

Further, they have no firsthand knowledge of her role and her actions during the period for which she is being criticized.

I do. I worked closely with her for many years and know that she is the right person to lead the CIA as the agency addresses a world of threats.

The Gina Haspel I know is a courageous leader, a selfless officer, and someone devoted to the men and women she has worked with and led. Haspel was the chief of staff when I was the No. 2 person in the agency’s clandestine service in 2004 and 2005.

In that role, she excelled at carrying out the directives of agency leadership and keeping us informed of the views, concerns and needs of the men and women serving the Directorate of Operations around the world.

Much has been made about what role Haspel might have played in the decision to destroy videotapes of some of the early interrogation of terrorist detainees. I was present for meetings among our senior staff when the tapes were discussed.

Haspel provided rationale both for and against the destruction of the tapes to our mutual boss, the head of the clandestine service. She was as impartial, fair and balanced as anyone could be in those discussions.

It was only after two CIA lawyers assured us that the destruction of the tapes was both within the authority of the head of the clandestine service and completely legal that our boss, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to order the tapes shredded. That was Rodriguez’s decision — but one I fully supported then and now.

In an earlier assignment, I led the Near East and South Asia Division at CIA at the time when Haspel was a key leader within the Counterterrorism Center and our two components supported the prosecution of the war against terror after 9/11.

Haspel has never been someone who worried about herself, her career or a high profile within the organization. She has been solely focused on mission, those she works with and the national security of this country.

A lot has been said — most of it wrong — about the role she may have played regarding enhanced interrogation techniques employed against a handful of terrorists in the awful days following 9/11.

Those authorities were approved by the White House, reviewed and approved by the Justice Department and briefed to key congressional leaders.

Those of us who were in key agency roles in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, remember the enormous pressure to prevent a second wave of attacks and the feeling that the ticking time bomb we could hear — but not see — might go off at any moment.

As memories of 9/11 began to fade among the public and some of our elected leaders, and as successes against new threats led by people such as Haspel mounted, finger pointing, recriminations and second-guessing became commonplace.

The actions of CIA officers in the field and at headquarters were scrutinized intensely by congressional investigators, federal prosecutors and others. These investigations found no wrongdoing of any kind on Haspel’s part.

None of us who had a role in the enhanced interrogation actions in the first part of this millennium approached them out of anything more than immediate and reluctant necessity to protect this country.

U.S. law has changed since those terrible days post 9/11. What was legal then may no longer be. Haspel followed the law at the time — and I am certain she will going forward.

She is a person with no political agenda, high moral character, great integrity and compassion. If confirmed as director, she will speak truth to power, as she has throughout her storied agency career.

Unlike so many of her critics, I know Haspel, and I know she is what this country needs at a time of threats from North Korea, China, Russia, cybercriminals and, yes, the terrorists who still plot every day to replicate and expand on the horrors of 9/11.

Our country will be safer with Haspel at the agency’s helm.

Robert Richer is a former associate deputy director of operations for the CIA.

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