Inside Haspel’s Hearing Room

| Charlie Allen
Charlie Allen
Former Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

If you watched the questioning of the President’s nominee for Director of Central Intelligence on C-SPAN, you probably missed the significant display of U.S. Intelligence heavyweights sitting behind her in the hearing room.

They included rank and file former Officers who have worked with Gina Haspel over the years, as well as special guests she thanked by name to include the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan M. Gordon, former U.S. Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Collection Mary Margaret Graham and longtime Intelligence favorite Charlie Allen, who served as the former Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security and is himself, a 40-year CIA veteran.

Allen and the others watched in close proximity as Haspel fielded a number of sometimes confrontational questions about her role in the destruction of tapes depicting enhanced interrogation techniques performed on a detainee in 2002.  A few of the senators were looking for reassurance about Haspel’s moral compass.  Some also wanted to know whether Haspel would be willing to stand up to the President if he should ever ask her to do something she considered to be immoral.  Haspel assured them that the CIA would never again use enhanced interrogation methods under her leadership. 

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly wondered what the guests, who were clearly there to show their support,  thought of her testimony.  So she reached out in an email to Charlie Allen and asked.   


First, I thought Gina was outstanding in the open session today, exhibiting confidence and answering questions candidly within the confines of what can be said in open session about sensitive questions on such matters as rendition, detention, and interrogation (RDI).  There are still classified aspects to RDI which I am certain Gina answered in the closed session.  Above all, Gina’s remarkable dedication to mission and service to country shown through as well as her pride in serving as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency.

I have known Gina since she was an officer in the Counterterrorism Center at Langley and I was serving George Tenet as the Associate Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection.  I visited her overseas on a couple of occasions when she was chief of station at a major post.  From the very first, I admired her candor, intelligence, and extraordinary dedication.  The breadth and depth of her knowledge of al Qa’ida is remarkable. But she can speak with equal facility on the threats posed by Russia and China.

I did speak to Gina after the testimony and congratulated her on a job well done.  She has to be pleased with the open hearing, despite repeated questions designed to separate her from those who made the hard decisions after 9/11, to strike back against terrorism.  She made it clear that the RDI chapter is closed and that it will not be reopened.

Gina made it clear that she will ensure that CIA operates a the high moral standards that the Agency has set for all officers.  The Agency’s ethics code delineates what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  You cannot describe one’s moral code in a “yes or no” one word response.

The glass ceiling was decidedly “cracked” when I was at the Agency.  Gina’s confirmation, which will now occur, will break that ceiling wide open.



The Author is Charlie Allen

Charlie Allen is the Former Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At DHS, Charles E. Allen developed the department's intelligence architecture, integrated its intelligence activities and ensured that they were continuously aligned with the department's evolving priorities. He also accelerated and expanded the department's processes for sharing intelligence with state and local security and law enforcement officials.  Allen also... Read More

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2 Replies to “Inside Haspel’s Hearing Room”
  1. Following her superb opening remarks, Gina displayed an extraordinary level of calm and resilience in the face of tough questioning from the Committee, including those who felt it was necessary to display a level of political indignation, even though some had been contemporaneously briefed into CIA’s interrogation activities at the time.

    Absent Gina as the next D/CIA, does anyone thing that this president might nominate anyone as a replacement who would be more skilled, experienced, and even-tempered…and who can provide Trump with a consistently honest optic on intelligence matters?

    Go girl!

    David Percelay
    Malibu, CA

  2. You write “The Agency’s ethics code delineates what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. You cannot describe one’s moral code in a “yes or no” one word response.” Watching the hearing on C-SPAN, and having retired from the U.S.Army therefore knowing the honor of being of service, I gained an appreciation for soon-to-be-Director Haspel’s abilities. I am sure she will prove a fine Director. But I don’t think the question “Is waterboarding moral?” was so hard, nor the question “If one of your personnel was captured and waterboarded, would you consider that immoral?”. My answer as a military officer was: “That decision has been taken away from me, the People of the United States through the Congress within the UCMJ tell me what I can and can’t do. I must act according to those instructions, what I think is not important. If I must act without clear guidance, I ask myself what would be required of me by the People of the United States. I consider those people to be strong, good, honorable, and compassionate. If I were directed by my superior to waterboard someone and convinced that it was approved and lawful, I WOULD do it, and would consider it moral, as I must consider that directive a clear expression of the will of the American People. Without that clear guidance from my superior, and depending only on my best understanding of what the People of the United States would want, I would NOT do it and in that case consider it immoral. Is morality situational? For me, it seems so.