CIA to get a professional spook to lead it

Donald Trump has made an unusual and potentially excellent personnel decision at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The president has nominated Gina Haspel to be the CIA’s new director, replacing Mike Pompeo, who’s moving from that job to become the next secretary of state.

Why is this such an important selection? Some recent CIA heads have come from the political arena. I think of Pompeo (former congressman), Leon Panetta (another former congressman), Porter Goss (still another ex-congressman); others have come from he military, such as Michael Hayden (Air Force general), David Petraeus (Army general) and Stansfield Turner (Navy admiral). They all had varying degrees of success and failure.

Haspel is a career spook. She spent many of her three decades in the CIA as a undercover agent, a spy.

Haspel — the agency’s deputy director — knows the CIA culture. She has lived it.

This nominee isn’t without some problem. She reportedly has been involved in the torture of terror suspects held captive. U.S. Sen. John McCain — a former Vietnam War prisoner who knows a thing or two about torture — has called on Senate committee questioners to probe deeply into Haspel’s involvement in that practice.

That all said, I believe Haspel’s nomination is a potentially huge selection for the CIA.

I like the idea that she has field experience as a deep-cover agent. She knows the business of intelligence-gathering and counter-intelligence. None of this experience has anything to do with her being the first woman ever nominated to lead the CIA.

We’re still in the midst of open warfare against terrorist organizations. We need a well-run CIA to operate at full throttle in this effort.

Moreover, and make no mistake about this issue, we need a CIA director who is willing to speak independently and candidly about issues that well might run counter to the issues put forward by the individual who nominated her.

Pompeo has challenged Donald Trump’s apparent belief that Russia didn’t meddle in our 2016 presidential election. My sincere hope is that Gina Haspel will endorse the view expressed by the entire array of intelligence officials who have reached the same conclusion as Mike Pompeo.

It’s vital that our intelligence community work overtime to seek ways to prevent Russians — or any other foreign adversary with similar capability — from future meddling.

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