Gina Haspel’s nomination to become director of the CIA comes at an opportune time, given her understanding of the threat posed by Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, and her years of work to defeat Islamic terrorism, swiftly leading operations that led to the capture and imprisonment of terrorists. As the first career CIA employee nominated to lead the organization in many decades, she is an outstanding nominee with a sterling record and reputation.

During her 33-year career, Ms. Haspel has worked in the field as an operations officer and as a chief of station in multiple countries. She speaks several languages, and has served in senior roles within the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and its National Clandestine Service, the unit responsible for covert actions around the world. As a deputy director and now acting director of the CIA, she has won awards for her distinguished service and excellence in intelligence and counterterrorism.

Along with colleagues who sing her praises, a bipartisan group of national security luminaries supports her nomination — among them, former secretary of defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former National Intelligence director James Clapper, and former attorney general Michael Mukasey. For 16 months as deputy director under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ms. Haspel won his trust and that of President Trump, working to keep America safe.

She is exactly the type of the leader the CIA needs today. As an officer who once recruited informants, she understands the unique insights that human intelligence can provide about “hard targets” such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Perhaps the greatest asset she brings to the role is her intimate understanding of the strengths and limits of the CIA. She needs no time to learn the ropes. Furthermore, as a career officer, her natural bias will be to deliver the clearest and most accurate insights possible without prejudice.

This is the reason for the CIA’s existence: providing unrivaled intelligence that enables a president to make well-informed decisions.

With a background such as this, her nomination and approval by the Senate should be a dead certainty. Regrettably, it’s not. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and many Democrats are refusing to support her because of misinformation about her role in a decision to destroy video tapes that documented the enhanced interrogation of two suspected al Qaeda operatives. Her boss, the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, chose to destroy the tapes based on the concern that they would identify CIA personnel involved in the interrogations.

As Jeremy Bash — the former chief counsel to the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and chief of staff to the CIA under President Obama — wrote a few days ago, the House investigation was overtaken by criminal review by the Department of Justice. It revealed no violations of the law. A second, broader review was conducted by President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, and again, the department determined that no CIA officer should be prosecuted. With his intimate knowledge of the facts, it is compelling that Mr. Bash has strongly endorsed her nomination.

It’s a shame that some senators are impugning Ms. Haspel’s character and distinguished record of service for purposes of placating a political base that appears to have little interest in facts. After giving more than three decades of her adult life to keep America safe, she is well qualified to lead the CIA.

America needs a strong, knowledgeable leader at the CIA. President Trump has nominated one. Senators should support Gina Haspel because of her proven leadership and experience. Now is not the time to play political theater with an important national security agency. Call, email and write your senators to approve her nomination.

Matthew Heiman is a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. Previously, he was a lawyer with the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq.

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Exactly a week before President Trump's nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, appears for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the White House on Wednesday engaged in sudden bout of advocacy, issuing a flurry of testimonials and holding a press briefing in support of her candidacy.

Little more was revealed than had already been disclosed about Haspel – who spent most of her 33-year career in the CIA's clandestine service. The administration did acknowledge that she faces a "close vote" in the Senate, and that it considers one of her greatest professional assets to be that she worked well and closely with her former boss, newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Unfortunately, in this environment, we expect that every vote is close with a more or less 50-49 margin with [Sen. John] McCain's absence," said White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short in an afternoon press call with reporters. "At the end of the day, it will be a close vote."

Earlier on Wednesday, at ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department, Pompeo and Mr. Trump exchanged mutually effusive remarks about the work that each had done and the numerous opportunities for success the administration and the State Department saw ahead.
The president also used the occasion to offer a glancing endorsement of Haspel. "For the last 15 months, Mike … served our nation as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency where, I can tell you, they have such respect for him. It's unbelievable," Mr. Trump said. Adding that CIA employees "may be the only people that are not very happy right now," the president said, "They'll be happy with our Gina, who's here today."

In its releases and during the press briefing, the White House cited the favorable appraisals of former CIA heads including John Brennan, Michael Hayden, Michael Morell and James Clapper – some of whom had served Democrat presidents, all of whom have been critical of Mr. Trump, and two of whom -- Clapper and Brennan -- have been directly accused by the president of leaking classified information.

Short said the administration was looking beyond one-sided endorsements to ensure it was getting the support of "a broader network of intelligence officials."

Though Haspel enjoys bipartisan support from high-ranking former officials within the intelligence community, endorsements for her candidacy are sparser and less sanguine in Congress. In a "What They Are Saying" press blast Wednesday, the White House highlighted the supportive comments of eight senators, including one Democrat, Bill Nelson, of Florida, who was quoted as saying, "I think the fact that she is a 30 year professional is a good sign."

Until Wednesday, the CIA itself had been waging a similar – if uncommon, given the agency's typically apolitical and unspeaking stance – public campaign to generate support for Haspel, whose involvement with the agency's post-9/11 enhanced interrogation program has generated significant controversy and opposition to her candidacy.

Indeed, on the same day the White House began rolling out its messaging for Haspel, the American Civil Liberties Union held its own press call featuring the former chief investigator for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dan Jones, who was lead author of the committee's nearly 7,000-page report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Jones said senators who have access to the entire report, the majority of which remains classified, have reason to be concerned about Haspel's candidacy. "The more they read it," Jones said, "the more disturbed they are."

The White House, meanwhile, highlighted portions of a story about Haspel published in The Wall Street Journal, whose headline read, "From Mother Teresa to Counterterrorism." The story described an encounter between Haspel and the later-beatified nun that resulted in a phone call between Mother Teresa and President Reagan, as well as a subsequent invitation for Haspel to visit a local orphanage. Short called the details in the story "an example of declassifying additional documents," adding that the administration would "look to try to declassify" more.

"We are trying to be as cooperative as possible with all inquiries into her background," Short said.

He also noted that the president had had "a couple conversations" with lawmakers and that "probably more of that will happen after her hearing and as we get closer to the actual vote."

Short emphasized the "rave reviews" Haspel won while serving as Pompeo's deputy.

"There are many concerns at the national security level," Short said. "She would make a great partner with the new secretary of state."