- - Thursday, May 17, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the end, the resistance didn’t work. Despite much hemming and hawing, the nomination of Gina Haspel to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency passed the Senate this week. The vote was 54 to 45, with six Democrats supporting her. Two of those Democrats are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Their support sealed the success of the nomination earlier in the week.

Other Democrats continued to oppose her. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, moving to the left as fast as she can — and risking falling off the left-most side of the spectrum — as she lusts for the Democratic nomination for president two years hence, opposed Mrs. Haspel’s confirmation in committee and in the full vote. Sen. Manchin is hugging the president as tight as he can as he struggles for re-election in a state that gave 70 percent of its vote for the president in 2016.

Nearly everyone agreed that Mrs. Haspel deserved the job on her merits. “Gina Haspel is the most qualified person the president could choose to lead the CIA and the most prepared nominee in the 70-year history of the agency,” says Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Republican who chairs the committee. Sen. Mark Warner pointed to Mrs. Haspel’s wide support from Obama-era apparatchiks — Mr. Deep State himself, John O. Brennan, former director of the CIA, backed her. Mr. Warner, noting that many CIA employes are his constituents in Virginia, said, “I believe that she will be a strong advocate for the agency’s workforce, and an independent voice who can and will stand up on behalf of our nation’s intelligence community.”

With Mrs. Haspel’s confirmation, she will be the first woman to lead the CIA. She is a career intelligence officer with experience in many positions in the agency. Sen. Burr is correct. No one has been more qualified.

The sturm and drang over Mrs. Haspel’s nomination was all about the partisan determination to resist everything the president is trying to accomplish. If the president were to nominate Barack Obama to supervise the motor pool at the State Department 40 Democrats in the Senate would manufacture a reason to oppose him, perhaps by driving a car he endorses the internal-combustion automobile engine.

In the aftermath of September 11, Mrs. Haspel supervised a secret CIA prison in Thailand, where captured terrorists were harshly interrogated. Those interrogations included waterboarding, the simulated drowning technique that critics call torture. She was further criticized for destroying videos of the interrogation sessions to protect the identify of CIA agents.

Because of her work in Thailand, many Democrats and several Republican senators, including John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky, opposed confirmation. Sen. McCain’s opposition, delivered from Arizona, where he is gravely ill, inspired the media cacophony against Mrs. Haspel. He was not able to vote.

Mrs. Haspel was following standard CIA protocol in Thailand at the time. The waterboarding, however harsh, gleaned vital intelligence from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a CIA prison in Poland, not Thailand. But in Thailand, too, Mrs. Haspel says “valuable information” was gleaned form terrorist detainees. The passage of 17 years has dimmed public memory of the widespread terror of those days after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Whether waterboarding is torture is moot now. Mrs. Haspel now says certain aspects of the “enhanced interrogation program” were a mistake: “The program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world. With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” Mrs. Haspel said in a recent letter to the Intelligence Committee. She was clear in her congressional testimony as well: “Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, C.I.A. will not restart such a detention and interrogation program.”

That was good enough for a majority of the Senate, and it’s good enough for the American public. It’s probably not good enough for the Democratic obstructionists who dream of destroying the duly elected administration of Donald Trump, by any means necessary. They will fail at that, too.

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