Acknowledging a mistaken path of retributive justice after an unprecedented attack matters. Having the curiosity to question the wisdom of that path before it is taken matters more. Ms. Haspel must have eyes wide open not only with respect to the unforeseen, tragic outcomes of our choice to torture detainees, but also the negative consequences of subsequent misadventures in the Middle East. It is not enough to have learned these lessons from the chastened perspective. We must not blunder again. We’re too big. Our 800 pound gorilla actions, often good intentions gone awry, sometimes a well-deserved punch back, pave the way for humiliating consequences for ourselves, and for weaker actors, unexpected, hellish outcomes.
The mission of our nation’s intelligence apparatus, principally, is to provide early warning indicators of hostile activity and predictions of second, third and fourth order effects of our countering behavior; this, so our leaders can make the best decisions on behalf of defending the Constitution of the United States, the safety of her land and people. Ms. Haspel has the experience and dedication to duty to qualify for her new role, and has wisely, if not directly, acknowledged the mistaken nature of the choice she helped make reality in the past, but she must also have the wisdom to help prevent the next unforced error by providing the right advice. She must not only present her agency’s assessments honestly, but also aggressively lead opposition when others in power want to risk our nation’s prestige and the safety of the world with the choice of an unwise path. At the minimum, she must push hard against any factions that want to pull America back toward torture, back toward military adventurism in the Middle East. Will she? We shall see.
Gina Haspel was sworn in as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on May 21, 2018