Reno Gazette Journal May 27, 2018
Last week the US Senate by a 54-45 vote confirmed Gina Haspel as the Director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), making her the first woman to head the Agency. Haspel came up through the ranks of CIA and her career spans well over three decades, with most of her years spent overseas as an undercover agent. Let me start by thanking the six Democratic Senators who crossed party lines to support her confirmation. Special thanks are due to Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner for doing the responsible thing and voting to confirm Haspel. What is disappointing is the fact that 45 Senators voted against Haspel despite her strong qualifications.
Agents like Haspel serve in far-flung destinations with no protection. Not only do CIA agents put their lives on the line every day, they do so in extremely hostile territories and in the dark alleys of foreign countries where the only justice available is street justice. One bad move, one missed signal, one moment of bad luck, and they pay for it with their lives. In these environments, they don’t have a support system, and no colleagues to bail them out. They often operate as individuals, not teams, with a handler sitting at a remote location (Langley, VA). They cannot have Facebook and Twitter, and in most cases, their loved ones don’t know where they are and what they do.
Firemen and police get recognition for putting their lives on the line. We honor them as heroes and deservedly so. CIA operatives take this sacrifice an order of magnitude higher. When they succeed in preventing an attack on the homeland, no one will know about it. There are no victory laps and no ticker tape parades, no matter how great the victory. They can prevent a thousand 9/11 attacks and no one will ever know. The one they miss, they will be the first to take the blame. If they lose their lives in service of this great country, all they get is a star engraved on a marble wall at CIA headquarters. Even in death, many of them remain anonymous. Many of those who died in the line of service have just the year of death with a blank next to the year as their names cannot be revealed.
One final point: Gina Haspel did not do anything illegal, even if she had participated or supervised Enhanced Interrogation. Since when did following fully legal orders become a disqualifier for public service? By the way, the majority of Americans in most polls support Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT). Regardless of one’s position on EIT, voting against the confirmation of great and highly-qualified patriots like Gina Haspel does the system serious injustice. Gina Haspel put her life on the line every day she showed up to work and did so on foreign soil to gather intelligence for this country while those who voted against her confirmation slept comfortably in their beds in the safety of their homes. Senators who voted against Haspel came up with excuses to put politics and self-interest ahead of the country and there should be no tolerance on either side for that.