The CIA Director’s Real Skills


On April 16, The New York Times published an article (in which I am quoted) with the headline, “Gina Haspel Relies on Spy Skills with Trump.  He Doesn’t Always Listen.”  It is inappropriate to assume that Haspel relies on some combination of 007 and Austin Powers relational jiujitsu to have her “voice heard at the White House”.  Not only is it inaccurate, but it is also depreciative of the hard work and effort Haspel has done to be an effective CIA Director in the eyes of the President.  What she’s doing is not spy craft, it is professionalism.

When Haspel assumed the challenging and demanding role of the Director of CIA, she had to do three things:  address the confusion in the workforce from the misguided reorganization of the CIA by John Brennan, transition the Agency from the brusque leadership style of Mike Pompeo to her own, and create an effective modus vivendi with the CIA’s primary customer, the President of the United States.  Though the article is really focused on the behavior of Trump, it does not accurately focus on what many of Haspel’s colleagues see as a masterful ability to build a relationship with a mercurial customer who has a consistent record of disdain towards the senior women on his team and an apparent antipathy and skepticism regarding the value of CIA’s national intelligence.

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