Gina Haspel addressed the Central Intelligence Agency on Monday after she was sworn in as the first woman to serve as the agency's director.
"Mr. President, it means a great deal to me and to the agency that you made time to come out to Langley for this ceremony," Haspel said. "You have placed enormous trust in CIA throughout your presidency, and the men and women of CIA do not take that for granted."
Haspel was confirmed in the face of most Democratic Senators and many critics taking issue with her involvement in the agency's "enhanced interrogation" program in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Administration officials had even claimed the nominee offered to withdraw her nomination earlier this month amid concerns the confirmation process would damage the reputation of the men and women in the agency. The 33-year CIA veteran, however, was ultimately successful in garnering enough votes for confirmation after a handful of Democrats announced their support.
"I am truly honored to have this opportunity to lead the best workforce in government. It has been nearly 50 years since an operations officer rose up through the ranks to become the director, and after the experience of the last two months, I think I know why that is," Haspel said to laughs from the crowd.
Haspel outlined her priorities as director will be to equip the officers and agents of the agency with the tools and resources they need in order to keep the United States safe.
"As the director, I want the current CIA leadership team to be role models and mentors for our next generation of officers who will walk the streets of far-flung capitals and work the late nights here at headquarters and abroad. For me, being director is about doing right by all of you so that you have the tools and support needed to carry out our sacred mission," Haspel said. "Every CIA officer has taken the same oath that I just did to support and defend the constitution against all enemies."
"I would be remiss if I did not also note the tremendous pride I take in being the first woman to serve as director," Haspel said, noting of the historic significance of her confirmation. "I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations of OSS and agency women in roles both large and small, who challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers, and opened doors for the rest of us. I am deeply indebted to them, and I am extremely proud to follow in their footsteps and to carry on their extraordinary legacy."
Haspel added how the notes from two young girls helped her through the difficult confirmation process.
"I also want to express a special thank you and welcome to Eliza and Zoe who have joined us today. The notes from these two young ladies, ages 6 and 7, sent to me, sat on my desk these last two months and motivated me daily," Haspel said. "And in their own words and pictures, they expressed their excitement about the opportunity my nomination represented. And to Eliza and Zoe I would simply say, ‘we did it.'"
Haspel concluded by commenting on how the agency will move forward under her leadership.
"We must learn from the past, but we cannot dwell on the past. We must constantly learn, adjust, improve and strive to be better. We demand it of ourselves and America deserves nothing less," Haspel said. "That includes boosting our foreign language proficiency, strengthening our partnerships overseas and here at home, and deploying more of our officers to the foreign field. We are a foreign intelligence service and our workforce and our priorities need to reflect that. We also need greater focus and effort on the strategic threats our nation faces as well as the persistent threat from global terrorism."