I do not believe in revisionist history. It reminds me of the plot of George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. I firmly believe that people’s actions should be judged within the context of the period in which they lived and acted. No second-guessing, no Monday-morning quarterbacking. For example, preposterous as it may be, some people have been accusing some of the Founding Fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, of being racist because they owned slaves. I am not condoning slavery, but we all know that during the 17th through 19th centuries slavery was a way of life in the South. Anyone who owned property owned slaves to work the land. Even some black families owned slaves. So, it is not appropriate or fair to judge them by today’s standards and mores.
The same applies to Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee for CIA Director. Haspel has been in the CIA for in excess of 30 years, and, undoubtedly, she has participated in various questionable practices during that time, which were appropriate, approved, legal, and even necessary at the time, but which may be objectionable, or even abhorrent, in retrospect.
For example, in the immediate aftermath of “9/11” she managed a notorious black site, code-named “Cat’s Eye,” in Thailand . Apparently, prisoners at this facility were subjected to “enhanced” interrogation, including “water boarding.” Not only did she manage this black site it appears she also was involved in or directed the destruction of the video tapes of certain interrogations. (Incidentally, Dems do not have any gripe about the destruction of tapes as “you know who” destroyed emails that had been requested under a subpoena.) In the minds of some, these actions should disqualify her, or at least call into question, her suitability for the directorship position.
However, consider the following:
- We all need to remind ourselves of the state of the country in 2001. Those of us who were too young to remember or not even born yet, (a surprising number) need to educate themselves to appreciate the physical, mental and emotional toll of the 9/11 attacks on the US and its citizens.
- We were brutally, wantonly, and cowardly attacked.
- The victims were not members of the armed forces; they were innocent civilians, kids in many cases.
- Thousands died horrible deaths, by fire, airplane crash, or from jumping out of the WTC towers.
- Tens of thousands more have been afflicted with cancers or respiratory illnesses directly related to the attacks. Almost everyone living in the NY area knows or knows of someone who was either killed on that day or who has suffered in the aftermath.
- Among other things, the country wanted revenge, payback. We wanted to find those responsible and kill them, and most of us were not too particular about how it was done. President Bush, 43, and his successor, Barack Obama, both made it a top priority of their respective administrations. An intense, global manhunt was underway for many years until we located and killed bin Laden.
- Most people realized we were at war with radical Islamic terrorism. The attitude of most people was we needed information, and we needed to obtain it by any means possible. That was the backdrop under which enhanced interrogation occurred.
In addition, at that time, as far as I can tell EI was not considered illegal. Controversial, yes, but not illegal. It was not until 2009 that President Obama issued an Executive Order banning torture. In 2015 Congress followed up with its own ban. But, these actions do not apply to Haspel’s abovementioned actions. Indeed, afterwards, the Justice Department conducted various investigations, and no one was adjudged guilty of any crimes. It would be healthy to have a national debate with respect to the appropriateness of waterboarding, which, incidentally, not everyone agrees meets the legal definition of “torture,” but let’s not engage in revisionist history.
Not much else is known about Haspel’s career as she has spent much of it undercover. What we do know is very impressive. She has managed to rise to the upper echelon of a male-dominated company. She has been posted to Europe, Turkey and Central Asia. She was the head of the London Station for a time, and most recently she has been Deputy Director (for which she did not require Senate approval). She is 61, and would be the first female to head the CIA. She has drawn kudos from Senator Dianne Feinstein, former chairwoman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who, although concerned about the EI issue, has praised her as a “good” deputy director.
Additionally, Amy Jeffers, former national security aide to Eric Holder who worked with her in London opined that Haspel would be a “thoughtful and conscientious leader.” According to my research various former agency operatives and other members of the intelligence community consider her a tough and direct, but collegial operative. Under normal circumstances the feminists and liberals would be touting her candidacy from the rooftops. (Can we label her detractors as “misogynists?”) Just asking.
Some of Haspel’s actions, have drawn the ire of various senators and members of the media. For example, Senator John McCain, himself a victim of extensive torture during the Vietnam War, characterized the torture of prisoners in black sites as “one of the darkest chapters in American history” and stated that the Senate “must do its job in scrutinizing the record and involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program.” Also, Senator Rand Paul has stated his opposition most vociferously. Many media outlets have also weighed in against her.
In my opinion, it would be fair and appropriate to make Haspel’s background an issue in her confirmation hearings and clarify what she did or directed done. But, from what I know presently, her record should not disqualify her. All of her actions, including the water boarding, appear to have been done under the direction of her superiors, and they were not illegal at the time. It is only now, as the memory of “9/11” fades and with the shift in public opinion against water boarding, that the outcry against her has arisen.
Although President Trump has indicated he would like to “bring back” waterboarding, it is not likely to happen. Many in the military and intelligence communities, Congress and even in his own administration are on record against it, and it would require Congressional approval.
In summary, the Senate is entitled and obligated to perform its due diligence, but Haspel appears to be a fine choice and should be confirmed.