The Banality of Gina Haspel: It would be hard to find someone with more experience to run the CIA – That’s why she’s a terrible choice

Gina Haspel is a consummate professional who has served the U.S. intelligence community with distinction for more than 30 years.

As the Trump administration’s nominee to head up the Central Intelligence Agency, Haspel has received endorsements from six former CIA directors, three former directors of national intelligence, and two former secretaries of state. It would be hard to find someone with more experience to run the CIA.

And that’s why she’s a terrible choice.

I’m not just talking about her involvement in the torture policy of the George W. Bush administration. I’m talking about her 33 years of quiet service to the Agency.

The CIA needs a Scott Pruitt or a Ben Carson. It needs someone who is dead set against the very nature of the organization, just as Scott Pruitt is anti-environment and Ben Carson could care less about housing and urban development (at least for the people who need it most).

Gina Haspel is just the type of status-quo choice that Donald Trump promised not to make. She’s not a swamp-drainer.

She’s a swamp thing.

That’s why I just love White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ confrontational tweet:

There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite.

Sanders is right – the Democrats probably would have tried to avoid the whole torture controversy if Obama had nominated Haspel. But that’s not the point. Trump was never about qualifications (or else he himself wouldn’t have made it past the primaries). So, let’s call the Dems partial hypocrites but reserve the attribute “total” for the current commander-in-chief for nominating a company woman when he pledged to shake up Washington.

And let’s take a closer look at just how Gina Haspel’s banality is the problem, not the solution.

Teaching Torture

The CIA didn’t suddenly discover torture after September 11. Throughout its history, the Agency has been intimately associated with operations that have involved torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” to use the banal phrase of the George W. Bush administration.

In the 1960s, the CIA developed a torture manual codenamed KUBARK that outlined various “coercive counterintelligence interrogation” techniques including sensory deprivation, threats and fear, “inducing physical weakness,” and, of course, pain. Although the manual details why inflicting pain is frequently counterproductive, many of the military regimes that drew on this manual ignored the caveats.

In 1983, KUBARK became the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, which U.S. allies used, often with the direct assistance of the CIA. Writes Laura Smith in Timeline:

The 1983 manual was discussed in Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in 1988 because of human rights atrocities committed by the CIA-trained Honduran…

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