CIA Director Gina Reel addresses the audience as part of the McConnell Center’s Distinguished Speaker Series at the University of Louisville, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When foreign officials visit to the CIA, that they sometimes leave with a nice bottle of Kentucky bourbon, recently confirmed CIA Director Gina Haspel said Monday in her first public event in which the former undercover intelligence officer provided a few personal details of her life and that of her priorities for the agency.
Back to her alma mater at the University of Louisville, the Reel can be deepened in some of the United States’ toughest challenges around the world. The spy agency’s first female director also lifted the veil behind her life, discussing her love for Johnny Cash songs, her reading preferences if not the unraveling of the CIA briefing books, and her most memorable celebrity encounter. That would be Queen Elizabeth, and yes, the queen knew she was a CIA agent.
“The queen is very well informed,” Reel told the audience.
The 61-year-old resident of Ashland, Kentucky, also showed that it promotes one of the bluegrass state’s most famous products — bourbon — at the meeting of top-ranking foreign officials.
“One of my greatest pleasures as a director are my relationships with colleagues abroad who come to visit,” said Reel. “And I made it a tradition that when … foreign heads of service visits Langley, Virginia, and sits with me in my office, I send them on their way with a bottle of very fine Kentucky bourbon. And we go through a number of up to now.”
They unveiled Woodford Reserve was the brand most recently given as a parting gift.
While touting her Kentucky roots, Reel grew up around the world, as the daughter of an air force military. She worked in Africa, Europe, and classified locations around the world, and was tapped as deputy director of the CIA last year. She worked under former CIA director Mike Pompeo to President Donald Trump, moved him to minister of state.
During a question-and-answer session with political commentator Scott Jennings, they mentioned, London and Istanbul as her favourite overseas cities, towns, and acquaintances to enjoy lighter reading rate during the free time. One of her most recent reads was “Hillbilly ” Elegy”, which they enjoyed despite the initial problems with the title.
The Senate confirmed her in May to lead the spy agency. She told the Louisville audience that one of her priorities is to invest more heavily in intelligence gathering against the nation-state opponents as Islamic extremists.
“Our efforts against this challenging intelligence gaps have been overshadowed over the years by the intelligence community to justify the heavy emphasis on the combating of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11,” she said. “Groups such as the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda remain clearly in sight, but we are sharpening our focus on the nation-state opponents.”
Reel said that they also work to invest in foreign language training to ensure CIA officers are attuned to the cultures where they work. Another one of her priorities is to recruit officers from all genders, races and cultures, and the increase of the number of officers stationed in foreign countries.
She said that the CIA also is working to beef up counter-narcotics efforts abroad to address the nation’s opioid crisis.
On North Korea, Reel said she thinks that Pyongyang views its nuclear weapons as a lever and a key to the survival of the government.
“I don’t think they want to give it up easily,” said Reel short for Trump said that a second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un was likely to be “very fast.”
Reel said, however, that she believes that the U.S. is in a better place than it is in North Korea, an unprecedented level of testing last year, “by the dialogue that we have made between our two leaders.”
In China, Winder said the CIA was the monitoring of Beijing’s global ambitions, including investments in Africa, Latin America, and the Islands in the Pacific and South-east Asia.
“They want a dominant position in the Asia-Pacific region, of course, and unfortunately, they are working to reduce AMERICAN influence in their own goals in the region,” she said.
The CIA is concerned about some of the tactics China uses, such as the provision of poor countries, investments in securities and loans that may be that countries not be able to pay it back. The US wants these countries to be aware of how that might compromise their sovereignty, ” she said.
On Iran, she said the Iranian people are suffering from the economic problems, because their economy is bad management. She said that as an intelligence officer, she is amazed at the amount of money Iran is spending to prop up the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the extension of its influence in Iraq and to equip and train the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who use that equipment to attack U.S. allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Reel’s appearance was part of the McConnell Center speaker series at the University of Louisville. The centre is named to the Senate majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. While introducing her Monday, the Kentucky Republican said Reel “unparalleled expertise help secure America’s position in the world.”
Reel appearance drew protests from a small group of students that are sung in the rain while huddled under umbrellas. She took out her past role overseeing a secret detention site in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.