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Gina Haspel is the rare CIA director nominee that both parties should love



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Nearly 16 years ago, as Americans were watching images of the World Trade Center towers collapse and smoke rising from the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, a mid-career CIA officer named Gina Haspel walked into the agency’s Counterterrorist Center, turned on her computer and went to work. Trained in operations, Haspel was respected by her colleagues for being soft-spoken yet direct, confident yet humble, and committed to the mission of the CIA in those harrowing hours after 9/11: preventing another catastrophic attack on the United States.

Haspel is now the nominee to lead the CIA, the first woman to be so nominated but, more important, the first career CIA officer to rise directly to the post since Richard Helms was confirmed 52 years ago.

Haspel has served as agency’s deputy director for the past year, having previously served in senior roles in the directorate of operations and as chief of station in a major allied capital. During the years after 9/11, she worked on a range of sensitive counterterrorism missions. Quite simply, she is among the most qualified people ever nominated to lead the CIA.

Image: Gina Haspel
Gina Haspel talks with Jared Kushner in Washington.Reuters

In 2007, I was serving as the Democrats’ chief counsel to the House Intelligence Committee, and as such was assigned to investigate the destruction of videotapes by the CIA documenting the interrogation of two suspected Al Qaeda operatives. We looked at Haspel’s role in that decision. She was serving as chief of staff to CIA Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez when the tapes were destroyed in 2005. What we found was that Haspel was not depicted on the videotapes and that she did not make the decision to destroy the videotapes. At the request of Rodriguez, she drafted a brief cable directing CIA officers in the field to destroy the videotapes. Rodriguez sent the cable to the field; Haspel believed Rodriguez had the legal authority to do so.

But importantly, Haspel believed that Rodriguez was going to seek the CIA director’s permission to send the cable. While Rodriguez had the legal authority, and while I believe his intentions were honorable — he wanted to protect the identities of agency personnel who were depicted on the interrogation tapes — the decision belonged to then-CIA Director Porter Goss.

Haspel was not depicted on the videotapes and that she did not make the decision to destroy the videotapes.

The investigation by the Intelligence Committee was soon overtaken by a criminal investigation by George W. Bush’s administration. The Justice Department assigned a respected assistant U.S. attorney, John Durham, to lead it.

Later, under President Barack Obama, the Durham investigation expanded to review whether any CIA officers had committed crimes as part of the agency’s program of rendition, detention and interrogation. Durham concluded his tapes investigation in 2010, finding that no laws had been broken. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder concluded the broader investigation and found that no CIA official should be prosecuted. This was the right decision.

The waterboarding of Al Qaeda detainees in 2002 and 2003 is indelibly part of our nation’s past, and we cannot escape it. But it is not part of our future. The issue of interrogations is now settled. Obama struck the proper balance. His administration decided it would be unjust to prosecute CIA officers who were trying to protect the country and who believed they were legally authorized to do so — but he resolved that we will never again engage in that conduct.

The waterboarding of Al Qaeda detainees in 2002 and 2003 is indelibly part of our nation’s past, and we cannot escape it. But it is not part of our future.

Even if President Donald Trump tried to reverse that policy, such interrogation techniques are now banned by the legislation authored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. And Haspel has stated in no uncertain terms that she would not approve these activities today, even if DOJ said they were legal.

Our future will pivot on our ability to confront the challenges posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the ever-changing tactics of terrorists all over the world. All of these challenges require intelligence professionals willing to step forward, serve and give our nation’s leaders their best and most candid advice. We need more people like Gina Haspel.

Democrats and progressive organizations should be encouraged that a nonpartisan, professional woman has been nominated to be CIA director. Democratic and Republican Senators should welcome Haspel’s clear-eyed approach to Russia, her expertise in counterterrorism, her record of nonpolitical service and the fact that she is no crony of the president or anyone at the White House.

Confirming Gina Haspel would send exactly the right signal to the intelligence community and the rest of the country about the importance of professional intelligence and service over self. We need that signal now more than ever.

Jeremy Bash served as Democratic chief counsel to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chief of staff at the CIA and the Department of Defense under President Obama. Bash is a national security analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

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Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong back behind bars over corruption scandal | Business News



Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong has been sent back to jail after receiving a two-and- a-half year sentence over his involvement in a major corruption scandal.

The 52-year-old, South Korea’s most powerful businessman, was convicted at a retrial on charges of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of criminal proceeds worth about 8.6 billion won (£5.7m).

It leaves Lee sidelined for the time being from major decision making at the company, one of the world’s largest makers of computer chips and smartphones.

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Z Fold2 today
Samsung has performed robustly in the latest financial year

Shares dipped 3%.

Lee had previously served a year behind bars for bribing an associate of former president Park Geun-hye before an appeals court suspended the jail term in 2018.

A year later, the supreme court ordered a retrial. Time served will count towards the latest sentence.

Lee’s lawyer Lee In-jae said: “This case involves the former president’s abuse of power violating corporate freedom and property rights… The court’s decision is regrettable.”

The Samsung vice chairman’s sentence complicates the process of inheritance from his father, who died in October.

Analysts said the court’s decision was unlikely to affect day-to-day operations at the company though large-scale decisions with longer term impacts – such as takeovers and major personnel changes – could be impacted.

Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee arrives at a court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2021. Yonhap via REUTERS
Lee is South Korea’s most powerful businessman

Samsung has performed robustly in the latest financial year, with its semiconductor business rebounding thanks to strong demand for PCs and servers during lockdowns.

Meanwhile sanctions against Huawei have hindered a company that is one of Samsung’s biggest rivals in smartphones, smartphone chips and telecoms equipment.

Samsung said earlier this month that it was on course to report a 26% rise in operating profit to 9trn won (£6bn) for the last quarter.

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China gold mine blast: 12 trapped workers still alive following explosion last week | World News



Twelve miners are still alive a week after an explosion trapped 22 workers underground at a Chinese gold mine, state media says.

Rescue teams are desperately trying to bring them back to the surface following the blast in Shandong province in eastern China on 10 January.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, a note passed through a rescue shaft on Sunday night said that while 12 of the workers were still alive, the fate of the other 10 remained unknown.

The rescue shaft had been used to pass food and supplies to the group while they wait.

The handwritten message said that four of the miners had been injured and the health of the others was declining, due to the lack of fresh air and an influx of water.

It added that the group needed medical supplies and drugs, and ended with: “Keep on with the rescue efforts. We have hope, thank you.”

Managers of the operation at the Qixia gold mine, which had been under construction at the time, were arrested and detained, after failing to report the incident for more than a day.

They have since been removed from their posts, along with the mayor of the nearby city of Yantai.

More than 300 people are part of the rescue effort above ground, with teams drilling a new shaft to try and reach the chamber and expel deadly fumes.

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Alexei Navalny: Dominic Raab joins international leaders in calling for immediate release of Putin critic | World News



Dominic Raab has called for the immediate release of Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

The foreign secretary has joined a host of leading politicians who have condemned Mr Navalny’s arrest on his return to Russia, after he was poisoned with a nerve agent last year.

Mr Raab said: “It is appalling that Alexei Navalny, the victim of a despicable crime, has been detained by Russian authorities. He must be immediately released.

Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane during the flight to Moscow from the Airport Berlin Brandenburg (BER) in Schoenefeld, near Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny plans to fly home to Russia on Sunday after recovering in Germany from his poisoning in August with a nerve agent. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane during the flight to Moscow from the Airport Berlin Brandenburg

“Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny, Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil.”

Mr Navalny was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday, after spending five months in Germany recovering from poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent.

The 44-year-old, who is one of Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, blames Moscow for the attack that nearly killed him, although the Kremlin denies any involvement.

His detention minutes after landing was widely expected because Russia’s prisons service said he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction.

He is due to be held until a date is set for his case. Lawyers for Mr Navalny said they have not been granted access to him.

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Moment Navalny is detained after landing in Russia

The arrest has prompted international calls for his release, with the US, the UK, Germany, and France condemning Moscow.

On Monday, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News the UK government was “very worried” about Mr Navalny’s safety.

He said: “The foreign secretary will say more about this, but we are very worried about the wellbeing and safety of Alexei Navalny.

“And of course, we have to make sure that the Russian government answers why a poison was used.”

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said Washington “strongly condemns” the decision to arrest Mr Navalny and called his detention “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”

He added on Twitter that he was “deeply troubled” by the move.

“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor see the need to commit violence against or wrongfully detain, political opponents,” he said.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser called on the Russian authorities to free him.

“Mr Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable,” Jake Sullivan said in a tweet.

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‘They tried to kill me,’ says Kremlin critic

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, called Mr Navalny’s arrest “unacceptable” and demanded his immediate release.

He was echoed by the French foreign ministry and German foreign minister Heiko Maas.

Mr Maas said: “Russia is bound by its own constitution and by international obligations to the principle of the rule of law and to the protection of civil rights.

“These principles must, of course, be applied to Alexei Navalny as well. He should be released immediately.”

On leaving Berlin on Sunday, Mr Navalny said he didn’t think he would be arrested as he had “every right” to return to his home country.

The arrest raises tensions in Russia as it approaches national parliament elections this year, in which Mr Navalny’s organisation is expected to be active in trying to defeat pro-Kremlin candidates.

“This is a real act of bravery for Alexei Navalny to return to Russia, given that government agents already tried to kill him once,” Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth tweeted.

“But he understandably wants to be part of the pro-democracy movement in Russia, not a dissident in exile.”

Mr Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on 20 August.

He was transferred to a hospital in Berlin two days later.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden tested the substance he was exposed to.

It was established he was poisoned with a Soviet-era novichok nerve agent – the same kind of substance used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian double agent and his daughter, in a 2018 poisoning in Salisbury.

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