The Rotating Door
The current president of the United States of America has an interesting habit of announcing staffing changes via Twitter — just like he uses it to announce important policy changes.
Dropping these digital bombshells has apparently become a favorite pastime for number 45, with five White House staffers getting the boot in the last month.
So, what does this mean, and why should you care?
Well, let’s start with Rex Tillerson’s replacement.
Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, former Tea Party congressman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, received $80,000 in donations from Koch Industries during his congressional campaign.
In 2015, he voted against the Clean Power Plan implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration, and has advocated for the elimination of green energy tax cuts referring to them as an “enormous government handout.”
Pompeo has consistently opposed the Affordable Care Act, and believes that life starts at conception, going so far as to vote for a prohibition against funding the United Nations Population Fund in 2011, a reproductive health and rights agency of the UN.
You get the idea.
Now let’s talk about his replacement; since Pompeo will be leaving the CIA, 45 has appointed current CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to take over.
While she is the first woman to be appointed as director of the CIA, she too has a less-than-appealing history.
According to The Intercept, Haspel had more than a hand in the Bush Administration’s infamous “Black Sites” used as secure locations for the torture of detainees, and is reported to have had an “extensive role” in the torture programs, as well as having directly participated in the torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah.
Arguably worse than her participation in the torture was her decision to destroy interrogation videotapes that contained evidence of said programs.
She is so well-known as a torturer, and the evidence against her so great, that Jameel Jaffer, formerly of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is quoted describing her as “quite literally a war criminal.”
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) asked the Public Prosecutor General of Germany to issue an arrest warrant against Haspel on the basis of her oversight of the torture of detainees.
As an individual with a long history as an undercover agent for the CIA, we know little else about Haspel’s past — but what we do know is enough to send chills down the spine.
Tillerson’s dismissal is significant for many more reasons beyond the potential impact of having Pompeo and Haspel in positions of greater influence, however.
Despite having one of the longer tenures out of this administration’s staff, Tillerson’s relationship with the current president has always been fraught, primarily due to disagreements over Iran, North Korea, and most recently, Russia.
Although Tillerson himself is certainly no angel, he has held strong against the president over key diplomatic issues such as advocating for the Iran nuclear deal, requesting to ease the blockade against Qatar, and even supporting the U.S.’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.
Most recently, Tillerson broke with 45 by condemning the Russian government over the nerve agent attack against a former Soviet spy now living in the U.K., and called Russia “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
So, not only are we losing one of the only people on the inside who has continuously spoken out against the president, but we’re replacing him with an individual who has a track record of working against everything the majority of this country wants in the form of Mike Pompeo.
Even worse, we’re appointing a well-known torturer as the head of our Central Intelligence Agency and further degrading the reputation of the federal government by conducting hiring and firing of federal employees over a social media feed.
Really, it’s just another day in the Iron Triangle.
** See the daily report from DemocracyNow! for an in-depth conversation about Haspel’s involvement in the Black Site torture programs