The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel as CIA Director despite opposition to her controversial involvement in an interrogation program during the presidency of George W. Bush, The Hill reports.
BREAKING: Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program https://t.co/ISNQXrJgYz
— Ellen Nakashima (@nakashimae) May 17, 2018
The Senate confirmed Haspel, the first female director of the agency, in a 54-45 vote. Unsurprisingly, many Democrats voted against her. A few, however, voted to confirm her including Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), who’s vice-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).
It wasn’t completely smooth sailing among the Republicans either, however. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted against her, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War voiced opposition to her nomination but was undergoing treatment for brain cancer in Arizona when the Senate voted.
Haspel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, received about half the support from Democrats that former House member Mike Pompeo received last year when they confirmed him as President Donald Trump’s first CIA chief.
Her nomination has been marked by controversy due to her involvement in “enhanced interrogation” techniques employed by the CIA in the aftermath of September 9/11. These techniques are now characterized as torture. Many senators were concerned about the time she spent running a CIA black site, as well as her role in destroying tapes documenting an al-Qaeda suspect being interrogated.
So the White House and the CIA swung into damage control mode to bolster support for her nomination, playing up her work with Russia. They also didn’t fail to note she has at least some support from former officials within the intelligence committee, including James Clapper, who was former President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence.
Gina Haspel has been confirmed as the next CIA Director, despite her role in the agency's interrogation program. The CIA launched an unprecedented PR campaign to support her, and former CIA directors lobbied senators on her behalf. https://t.co/1qov4cKeye by me and @karoun
— Shane Harris (@shaneharris) May 17, 2018
Haspel also tried to dispel concerns during her hearing about her role in the interrogations, saying during her testimony before the committee that the program would not be resumed under her leadership.
She also dodged questions from Democrats about the morality of the program.
Then she took things a step further, writing a letter to Warner earlier this week and saying that the agency shouldn’t have taken part in these techniques.
“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior Agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”
The Washington Post reports that former CIA Directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta got into the act, contacting at least five of the six Democrats who decided to support her, some people with knowledge of the situation have said.
Trump, however, went back and forth in his support, sometimes expressing doubt in private meetings as to whether she had what it takes to become the director. Earlier this month she sought to withdraw from the nomination when some in the Trump administration worried that her association with the CIA’s interrogation program could harm her chances.
Then Trump, after indicating he would support whatever decision she made, began advocating for her to stay in the running. After the Senate confirmed her, Trump congratulated her.
Congratulations to our new CIA Director, Gina Haspel! pic.twitter.com/n1xj9LSV9D
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018
We can only hope that she remains true to her word that the CIA won’t practice these “interrogations,” but considering the character of the man she’s working for, that may be too much to ask for.
You can watch the commentary on her controversial appointment in the video below.
Featured image by CBS News via YouTube video.