CIA Nominee Gina Haspel Faces A Senate Showdown

CIA director nominee Gina Haspel attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington last week.

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Gina Haspel’s appearance before the Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday promises to be a very unusual confirmation hearing.

Most every nominee for a top government job has a long public record that is open for scrutiny. Not so with Haspel, who would be the first woman to lead the CIA.

She is a spy’s spy. She spent 32 years undercover at the agency and was named deputy director last year.

Much of her life remains shrouded in mystery. There are just a few public photos. The only voice recording NPR found is from a banquet last October, held by the Office of Strategic Services Society, a group dedicated to the World War II agency that preceded the CIA. In brief remarks, Haspel honors the memory of a legendary spy, Hugh Montgomery, who had recently died.

Gina Haspel speaks at a banquet last October. Haspel, the nominee to be director of the CIA, was undercover for 32 years at the spy agency and has left little in the way of a public record.

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The CIA is only selectively lifting the veil on Haspel’s long career. Haspel, 61, joined the agency in 1985, a few years after graduating from the University of Louisville. She has held 20 separate jobs, including seven foreign postings.

The positions are only identified by region — Africa, Europe and Eurasia. Although, the languages she learned at the CIA — Russian and Turkish — offer additional clues about her assignments.

“Gina will bring to the table a personal and granular knowledge of what it’s like to be an operator, to go down the dark alley and meet a source,” said Frank Archibald, who was the CIA’s director of clandestine services before he retired three years ago. Haspel was his deputy.

But personal testimonials aren’t enough, says Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

“I’m very familiar with the classified material. I think the vast amount of this can be declassified,” said Wyden, who is on the intelligence committee that will question Haspel on Wednesday.

“I think the agency is covering up her background, because if the American people knew what I knew, I think there would be many senators who would say, ‘Look, there’s no choice but to reject her confirmation,’ ” said Wyden.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Haspel was willing to step down Friday rather than go through a grilling by senators that could embarrass her and the agency.

But White House officials persuaded her to press ahead, and she remains on track for the Wednesday hearing.

An administration official involved in the Haspel confirmation process declined to discuss specifics of the Post story but acknowledged “Friday was a rough day.” The official said that Haspel will meet with five or six senators Monday and Tuesday and that CIA will provide senators a classified briefing book with details of Haspel’s agency career.

At the CIA, spokesman Ryan Trapani said, “Those who know the true Gina Haspel — who worked with her, who served with her, who helped her confront terrorism, Russia and countless other threats to our nation — they almost uniformly support her.”

He added: “When the American people finally have a chance to see the true Gina Haspel on Wednesday, they will understand why she is so admired and why she is and will be a great leader for this agency.”

Haspel has taken on some of the toughest jobs in counterterrorism.

A high point came in 1998 when she was a station chief in a country the CIA won’t name.

After the deadly al-Qaida bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Haspel worked closely with the country where she was based.

The CIA said this led directly to the arrests and imprisonment of two key al-Qaida members.

“I never saw a moment be too big for Gina. Because she had the resilience, based on her personal character, to say whatever the bad guys throw at us, we’re going to come back, and we’ve got a plan, and we can manage this, we can go forward,” said Archibald.

Haspel’s most controversial moments came a few years later.

She was at a black site prison in Thailand where al-Qaida suspects were waterboarded in 2002. And in 2005, she wrote a cable calling for the destruction of videotapes that showed that waterboarding.

Daniel Jones was a Senate intelligence committee staffer at the time. He said that revelation prompted senators to call for an expanded investigation. The result was the Senate’s so-called torture report that he helped write. The full report, along with a declassified version, were released in 2014.

“The creation of that cable by Gina Haspel, and her advocacy for the destruction of the tapes, really led to the eventual 7,000-page [classified] report,” said Jones.

Today the law is clear. Waterboarding is illegal. The CIA says it’s out of the interrogation business, something Haspel has been telling senators in private meetings.

But her nomination has raised the issue anew, says Chris Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Gina Haspel is unique. She is the only one who has been nominated for office who had an operational role in the use of torture,” Anders said.

If confirmed, Haspel will be the first CIA chief in decades who has spent her entire career at the agency.

She has strong support from CIA veterans like Jeanne Tisinger, who is retired from the agency.

“The way I’d like to think about it is that Gina being the first female [director of the CIA] would be a footnote and not the headline,” said Tisinger. “Gina is incredibly well-qualified and, simply put, is the best choice for the role when you look at her smarts, her experience, her integrity, her wisdom, her steady hand.”

But Wyden says the debate needs to be more public.

“You ought to have an open debate about a nominee. A nominee ought to take public responsibility for their actions. And senators have to answer to an informed public for their votes,” he said.

Haspel’s hearing on Wednesday is set to have both an open and a closed session. The White House, which is lobbying hard for Haspel, says it expects a very close vote.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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Lava Eruptions Destroy At Least 5 Homes, Wreak Havoc In Hawaii

In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava from a fissure slowly rolls down the street on Saturday in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii after the eruption of the Kilauea volcano last week.

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Lava continued to spew out of cracks in the ground early Sunday after the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano destroyed at least five homes and forced the evacuation of more than 1,700 people last week.

The Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory says eight volcanic vents, each several hundred yards long, have opened since the initial eruption of Hawaii’s most active volcano Thursday. In the early morning hours on Sunday, lava shot up 230 feet in the air from one fissure in a section of the rural Puna district on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Lava fountains 230 ft from new fissure (#8) in Leilani Estates subdivision in the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano. https://t.co/YZoHBfiy2Apic.twitter.com/uP6oEg9zjy

— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) May 6, 2018

Several small earthquakes also continue to rock the area since a 6.9 magnitude temblor hit on Friday, which Reuters reports was the strongest since 1975. Geologists say that magma rolling through Kilauea triggered the earthquakes, which could continue over the next few months.

More than 1,700 residents have evacuated from the communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens and are coping with the fact that they may not be able to return home for a while.

“I have no idea how soon we can get back,” Leilani Estates resident Todd Corrigan told the AP. He and his wife fled their home after lava exploded from the ground a few blocks away.

Scientists cautioned that new vents could open up, but they are unable to predict exactly where the ground could split. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warns that sulfur dioxide gas released from the fissures could be life-threatening in large quantities.

“Those remaining in Leilani and Lanipuna Gardens and along Pohoiki Road need to prepare to leave because if the winds change, you could be gassed,” Hawaii County Council member Eileen O’Hara said in a Facebook post.

State officials told Reuters the disaster hasn’t impacted flights or tourist spots on the island, which are far from the area where lava continues to burst from cracks in the ground. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency released a public map outlining the affected areas and issued an emergency water restriction order for the Leilani Estates subdivision.

The agency also warned that continued bursts of lava could reach up to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. An administrator for the agency told CBS News that experts don’t know how long volcanic activity will continue.

“That’s the sad part about it,” administrator Talmadge Magno said. “It could be happening for a long time, or on the other hand, like I said, mysteriously it could just end.”

Area residents have dealt with eruptions of the Kilauea volcano since 1983, according to the AP. In 2014, lava torched a house and blanketed a cemetery near Leilani Estates, and almost 30 years ago, the entire town of Kalapana was slowly buried in lava over a year.

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Princess Charlotte Passes The Royal Torch In New Photos Of Prince Louis

In this May 2, 2018 photograph provided by Kensington Palace, Britain’s Princess Charlotte cuddles her brother Prince Louis, on her third birthday, at Kensington Palace, in London.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released two new photos of the newest addition to the royal family, Prince Louis, on Sunday.

The first official photos of the fifth in line to the British throne were taken by Princess Kate Middleton at the home of her and Prince William in Kensington Palace. Prince Louis Arthur Charles has not been seen in public since he was born on April 23 at St. Mary’s Hospital in central London.

The first snapshot was taken on April 26, just three days after the little prince was born. The second photo, taken on Princess Charlotte’s third birthday on May 2, shows the older sister planting a gentle kiss on her baby brother’s forehead. The photo signifies Princess Charlotte passing the royal torch to her younger sibling, as it mimics a portrait taken of the princess and big brother Prince George, 4, in June 2015.

“The Duke and Duchess would like to thank members of the public for their kind messages following the birth of Prince Louis, and for Princess Charlotte’s third birthday,” Kensington Palace tweeted on Sunday.

This image of Prince Louis was taken by The Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace on 26th April.

The Duke and Duchess would like to thank members of the public for their kind messages following the birth of Prince Louis, and for Princess Charlotte’s third birthday. pic.twitter.com/bjxhZhvbXN

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 5, 2018

Prince William and Princess Kate said in a statement that they are “very pleased” to share the photos. Kate, who studied art history at the University of St. Andrews, is an avid photographer who has previously taken official portraits of her children.

The two youngest royals donned family hand-me-downs for the official portraits. Princess Charlotte is pictured in a blue and white cardigan worn by Prince George in a family portrait for the Queen’s 90th birthday in April 2016, according to The New York Times. Prince Louis’ comfy white outfit was also previously worn by his sister in the aforementioned portrait taken after she was born.

This will likely be the last glimpse of the young prince until his christening, which is expected to be held in July. The palace has already announced that Prince Louis will not attend the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.

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Donald Glover Brings His Black Renaissance To 'Saturday Night Live'

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Stormy Daniels may have kicked off Saturday Night Live with her guest appearance in a star-studded opening sketch, but last night’s episode was all about a different Donald getting his rocks off.

Not only did Donald Glover host the show, he acted in nearly every sketch, then debuted two new Childish Gambino songs during his musical performances. Indeed, the man of many hats wore them all. (Overnight, he also simultaneously released a shocking new video for one of the songs, a surefire protest anthem called “This Is America,” below.)

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“I’m an actor, a writer and a singer — some people like to call me a triple threat, but I kinda like to call myself just a threat,” Glover said in an opening monologue that satirized his seeming ability to “do anything.” The one thing he’d failed at was getting cast on the sketch comedy series, despite auditioning for SNL twice, as he informed the audience before spending the rest of the monologue disastrously trying to one-up other cast members.

It’s doubly funny considering the history of black players on SNL is one of talented performers, often underutilized and unappreciated, being forced to exit in order to find their true comedic voice — from Chris Rock to Jay Pharoah. The exceptions, like the undeniable talent of Eddie Murphy or the unprecedented tenure of Kenan Thompson, are extremely rare. Meanwhile, Glover’s been busy breaking form on FX, where he’s successfully reimagined the American sitcom on his hit show, Atlanta, with its surreal look at life for everyday black folk. (This week’s “FUBU” flashback episode on bullying was one of the most heartfelt half hours in recent TV history.)

Fans who came to SNL expecting to see Glover remodel the variety show after his own imagefound just how restricting the form can be, but also how adaptable Glover’s brand of cerebral humor is on-stage. Glover was best in pre-recorded skits like “Friendos,” a Migos send-up that found the kings of trap rapping with deadpan glee about group therapy. (In the session, Thompson mimics Takeoff’s penchant for barking out ad-libs to a T.)

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The sense of alienation that comes through in his recent New Yorker profile was best captured in a skit that found him reprising his role as Lando Calrissian (from the forthcoming Star Wars film Solo). Calrissian hosts “the first-ever Galactic Summit For All Black Humans,” only to discover the turnout is surprisingly low: a total of three people show up. But the best skit of the night was “Kanye Place,” which lampooned the artist’s neverending string of controversial statements in a scary-movie setting that showed how our collective inability to resist Kanye’s trolling is the real threat to humanity.

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Glover’s own alter-ego, rapper/singer Childish Gambino, effectively stole the show, if such a thing is possible. Introduced by Zoe Kravitz, Gambino performed a new song as tropical and summery as his last album, Awaken! My Child, was rap-less and funky. Though he chose to forego performing any of the hits from that album, including “Redbone,” he still showed off his falsetto on the R&B/dance song about weekend love.

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And when he returned later in the show for a shirtless performance of “This Is America,” introduced by Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), the message of American dominance and the exploitation of black lives was further underlined by the show’s closing skit — featuring Glover and the show’s two black men (Thompson and Chris Redd) playing prisoners assigned to work as call center customer service reps for 30 cents an hour.

It was a tour-de-force for Glover, who has proven himself to be the smartest working man in TV today — and, ironically, possibly the most overqualified SNL host to ever wear the hat. Suffice it to say, the man twice deemed not quite ready for SNL finally nailed that audition.

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Donald Glover Brings His Black Renaissance To 'Saturday Night Live'

YouTube

Stormy Daniels may have kicked off Saturday Night Live with her guest appearance in a star-studded opening sketch, but last night’s episode was all about a different Donald getting his rocks off.

Not only did Donald Glover host the show, he acted in nearly every sketch, then debuted two new Childish Gambino songs during his musical performances. Indeed, the man of many hats wore them all. (Overnight, he also simultaneously released a shocking new video for one of the songs, a surefire protest anthem called “This Is America,” below.)

YouTube

“I’m an actor, a writer and a singer — some people like to call me a triple threat, but I kinda like to call myself just a threat,” Glover said in an opening monologue that satirized his seeming ability to “do anything.” The one thing he’d failed at was getting cast on the sketch comedy series, despite auditioning for SNL twice, as he informed the audience before spending the rest of the monologue disastrously trying to one-up other cast members.

It’s doubly funny considering the history of black players on SNL is one of talented performers, often underutilized and unappreciated, being forced to exit in order to find their true comedic voice — from Chris Rock to Jay Pharoah. The exceptions, like the undeniable talent of Eddie Murphy or the unprecedented tenure of Kenan Thompson, are extremely rare. Meanwhile, Glover’s been busy breaking form on FX, where he’s successfully reimagined the American sitcom on his hit show, Atlanta, with its surreal look at life for everyday black folk. (This week’s “FUBU” flashback episode on bullying was one of the most heartfelt half hours in recent TV history.)

Fans who came to SNL expecting to see Glover remodel the variety show after his own imagefound just how restricting the form can be, but also how adaptable Glover’s brand of cerebral humor is on-stage. Glover was best in pre-recorded skits like “Friendos,” a Migos send-up that found the kings of trap rapping with deadpan glee about group therapy. (In the session, Thompson mimics Takeoff’s penchant for barking out ad-libs to a T.)

YouTube

The sense of alienation that comes through in his recent New Yorker profile was best captured in a skit that found him reprising his role as Lando Calrissian (from the forthcoming Star Wars film Solo). Calrissian hosts “the first-ever Galactic Summit For All Black Humans,” only to discover the turnout is surprisingly low: a total of three people show up. But the best skit of the night was “Kanye Place,” which lampooned the artist’s neverending string of controversial statements in a scary-movie setting that showed how our collective inability to resist Kanye’s trolling is the real threat to humanity.

YouTube

Glover’s own alter-ego, rapper/singer Childish Gambino, effectively stole the show, if such a thing is possible. Introduced by Zoe Kravitz, Gambino performed a new song as tropical and summery as his last album, Awaken! My Child, was rap-less and funky. Though he chose to forego performing any of the hits from that album, including “Redbone,” he still showed off his falsetto on the R&B/dance song about weekend love.

YouTube

And when he returned later in the show for a shirtless performance of “This Is America,” introduced by Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), the message of American dominance and the exploitation of black lives was further underlined by the show’s closing skit — featuring Glover and the show’s two black men (Thompson and Chris Redd) playing prisoners assigned to work as call center customer service reps for 30 cents an hour.

It was a tour-de-force for Glover, who has proven himself to be the smartest working man in TV today — and, ironically, possibly the most overqualified SNL host to ever wear the hat. Suffice it to say, the man twice deemed not quite ready for SNL finally nailed that audition.

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Bomb Blast Inside Mosque Kills At Least 14 In Eastern Afghanistan

An Afghan man lays on a stretcher as others rush him to a hospital following blast at a mosque being used as a voter registration center in Khost Province on Sunday.

Farid Zahir /AFP/Getty Images

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A bombing inside a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more, Afghan officials said.

The blast took place during afternoon prayers at the mosque in the city of Khost, the capital of the province of the same name. The mosque was also being used as a voter registration center for parliamentary elections set for October, marking the latest in a series of attacks on election-related facilities.

The explosion is believed to be caused by explosives planted in the mosque, rather than by a suicide bomber, a spokesman for the provincial police told Reuters.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and ISIS are suspected as those groups have a history of targeting democratic elections. The Associated Press notes that while ISIS has gained more ground in Afghanistan in recent years, the terror group does not have a confirmed presence in Khost.

The parliamentary elections planned for October would be the first held in Afghanistan since 2014, but repeated attacks have delayed voter registration. Local media reports this is the seventh attack on an election-related site since registration started in mid-May.

Milaha Hassan, an election commissioner, told The New York Times that only 1.2 million people are registered to vote out of 14 million who are believed to be eligible. The government’s credibility and that of its Western allies hangs in the balance as the violence threatens to undermine the upcoming parliamentary vote, which has already been put off three years.

Last month, a suicide bomber killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 100 others who were registering to vote in the Afghan capital, Kabul. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.

NPR’s Diaa Hadid also reports for our Newscast unit that seven Indian citizens and their Afghan driver were abducted Sunday in northern Baghlan province. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban, though no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

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The Struggle Of Finding Help For 'A Dangerous Son'

A new HBO documentary tells a story about families with children who have psychiatric disorders that lead to violent behavior.

A Dangerous Son, which premieres Monday, focuses on three families who are dealing with the simultaneous challenges of handling children prone to lashing out while looking for treatment that is not always available.

“I don’t know how to control my anger,” 10-year-old Ethan says in one clip.

Ethan, now 16, is one of the film’s subjects. His mother Stacy Shapiro says he struggles with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and anxiety. His aggressive behavior started between ages 2 and 3, she says.

He lashes out frequently over small things — a scene in the film of him hitting and shouting in the car is “a daily occurrence for us, sometimes multiple times a day,” Shapiro tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro on Weekend Edition.

They sent Ethan to a residential mental health facility, which is documented in the film. That’s not an option for many families, as there aren’t enough beds in many areas.

The experience wasn’t great, Shapiro says. “I don’t feel safe and I don’t think that he is ready to come home,” she says she told the facility at one point while he was there.

She says his behavior was “no better when he came home.”

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The film’s director Liz Garbus wanted to show how challenging this situation is both for the child and the family. Often, people assume a child’s behavior is a type of parental failure. “Destigmatizing families like Stacy’s who are going through this and seeing how hard they’re trying is really important,” Garbus tells Garcia-Navarro.

Garbus also cautions against assumptions that mental illness leads to violence — people with mental illness are more likely to be “victims of violence than perpetrators of violence,” she says.

“It is an enormous weight on one person” in Shapiro’s case and similar ones, Garbus tells NPR.

“Rehabilitation in this country is something that is very expensive, but the costs of not doing are worse. And so that’s why we made the film. You listen to Stacy, she loves her son, she loves her other children. She’s being put in a nearly impossible situation — the beds aren’t there.”

The filmmakers talked with Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, whose 24-year-old son stabbed and seriously wounded him before taking his own life in 2013. Even a prominent politician like Deeds had difficulty getting his son the help he needed, Garbus says.

Finding crisis care in situations like Deeds’ can be “like a labyrinth,” Ron Honberg of the National Alliance on Mental Illness told NPR’s Rae Ellen Bichell in 2013. “Families are basically left to fend for themselves” if there isn’t space in a psychiatric hospital.

Shapiro says that after the filming ended, Ethan’s been doing better. She found a school to help deal with his mental health issues.

Shapiro says parents who suspect children of having serious mental health issues should start trying to get help immediately as “there are so many kids now being diagnosed that the wait lists are so long.”

There were times she had to call the police on her son. Shapiro says they were helpful; they helped to “de-escalate” Ethan. And unfortunately, she needed to have a paper trail to prove the problem was ongoing “when he got older and things got worse.”

Many people of color would hesitate to do the same. Garbus acknowledges, “if you’re an African-American family, calling in the police officers won’t always go the same way it would in Stacy’s case.”

For other families dealing with the same situation, finding support networks on social media like Facebook groups is “vital,” Shapiro says.

“Especially when you feel like you’re alone. And it is a lonely, lonely place to be to be this kind of mom.”

Part of the goal of the documentary was to raise attention to what these families face on a daily basis: “Bringing it out into the sunlight, into the daylight and not keeping it hidden away and people feeling ashamed,” Garbus says.

NPR’s Sarah Handel and Viet Le produced and edited the audio of this story.

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