Here we go again.
Less than a month after politics threatened to derail Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of State, the same obstacle course is forming for the woman President Trump has chosen for Pompeo’s old job at the CIA. Policymakers may have legitimate qualms about Trump’s nominee, but many are once again putting political theater above the country’s interests. Washington needs to be better and do better.
Gina Haspel appears eminently qualified to lead the CIA, having served for more than three decades as an intelligence officer and station chief in various countries throughout the world. Maybe more important, people who have worked with her—CIA directors who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents, not to mention a wide range of CIA officers—have expressed their strong support for her nomination. That list includes Leon Panetta, John Brennan and James Clapper, all of whom were appointed by President Obama.
But this week, many Senate Intelligence Committee members seemed more focused on staging viral YouTube clips than on exploring issues of real substance during Haspel’s confirmation hearing. Haspel’s record does demand serious scrutiny. During a complicated time in our nation’s history, Haspel, like many of her colleagues at the CIA, participated in efforts to fight al-Qaeda that raise legitimate moral questions. But those concerns need to be weighed against her broader record and competence, which includes distinguished service in former Soviet client states in the 80s, running Russia operations in central Eurasia during the 90s and leading the CIA’s counterterrorism center in the early 2000s. That seems like the kind of experience that would be useful atop the CIA and helpful in keeping…