When President Donald Trump tweeted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's job away and announced he planned to fill the vacancy with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, he also said he wanted the CIA's current deputy director, Gina Haspel, to take the reins of the spy agency.
In the wake of this announcement, several prominent former intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell, spoke highly of Haspel, herself a 30-plus-year veteran of the agency. But Haspel also has a chorus of loud detractors, especially civil liberties figures, because of her reported prominent role in the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, later declared by the U.S. government to be torture.
Over Twitter, John Sipher, who spent 28 years in the CIA's clandestine service, told me why he thought Haspel deserved to be asked "hard questions" but would ultimately be good for the agency. The brief exchange is posted below, with Sipher's permission, along with a direct message in which he expanded a little more on his thoughts. (Note: EIT refers to enhanced interrogation techniques, the clinical-sounding term used by the CIA for torture.)
We need leaders in this environment who understand and will protect their institutions. They need to protect the people and tell truth to power. Nobody will survive the political chaos but we need our institutions and public servants to be resilient.— John Sipher (@john_sipher) March 13, 2018
Any concerns about the EIT history?— Lee Ferran (@leeferran) March 13, 2018
Yeah but while she is a symbol of it, she was not the architect or promoter, or even really senior then. Bring it up and ask hard questions but don't use her as a scapegoat and leave the powerful institution to those who will do worse.— John Sipher (@john_sipher) March 13, 2018
Any idea what you would’ve done in her position?— Lee Ferran (@leeferran) March 13, 2018
Too easy to say now. I'm lucky that I never was in that position. I do recall that everybody in Washington - even those who are the most vocal now - were begging the CIA to do more, not less. Of course, they all ran for the hills and hid when the reckoning came.— John Sipher (@john_sipher) March 13, 2018
[The direct message from Sipher, also posted here with permission:]
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