The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is slated to get its first woman director as Deputy Director Gina Haspel moves into the top spot to replace Mike Pompeo, who will take over as Secretary of State after Rex Tillerson was unexpectedly ousted Tuesday.
Tillerson’s firing comes just a day after he attributed the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. to Russia, something that the White House had refused to do. Despite the seeming suddenness of the Tillerson’s firing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that President Trump asked Tillerson last Friday to resign.
Haspel, a former undercover agent, has won the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism, the Donovan Award, the Intelligence Medal of Merit and the Presidential Rank Award. Her nomination as deputy director last year drew praise from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Although she is reportedly widely respected by her colleagues, her tenure at the CIA wasn’t without controversy – the New York Times reported last year that she oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects at a Thailand secret prison and, under orders, helped destroy videotapes of their interrogations.
While Tuesday’s announcement came as a surprise to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, some were quick to give Haspel the thumbs up. Noting that Pompeo’s move was “a loss for the CIA,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a statement that Haspel “is also an excellent choice to become the new CIA director,” adding, “I look forward to supporting them both during the confirmation process and working with them in the years to come.”