Gina Haspel is on track for confirmation as the Central Intelligence Agency’s next director after a Senate panel voted 10-5 Wednesday in favor of the nominee.
At least five Democrats are expected to join a nearly united Republican caucus in backing Haspel, currently the CIA’s acting director, when the full Senate holds a final confirmation vote, likely next week.
“She’s the best person in the world to run the agency,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio told VOA shortly after the vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
President Donald Trump’s selection of Haspel sparked controversy, given the career CIA employee’s oversight of harsh detainee interrogations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. and her backing of the spy agency’s destruction of videotapes showing what many legal scholars say was the torture of terror suspects.
At her confirmation hearing last week, Haspel told the Intelligence Committee her post-9/11 actions had the backing of the Justice Department and came during a period of intense fears about U.S. security.
“She has acted morally, ethically, and legally, over a distinguished 30-year career and is the right person to lead the Agency into an uncertain and challenging future,” the committee’s chairman, North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, said in a statement.
Several Democrats sharply disagreed, alleging that, as acting CIA director, Haspel engineered an incomplete disclosure of her record to senators and the broader American public.
“The Haspel nomination is one of the most self-serving abuses of power in recent history,” said Ron Wyden of Oregon. “I don’t know of another occasion when the person who was up for nomination was given the sole ability to decide what about her background would be classified and what wouldn’t.”
“Gina Haspel chose to be an accessory to the CIA’s illegal and unconstitutional torture regime, supporting waterboarding and the outright humiliation of prisoners,” Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada said in a statement. “Her complicity darkened the light of America’s legal system and rule of law to the entire world, threatened the safety of our troops in combat, and ignored every principle of international human rights.”
During her confirmation hearing, Haspel repeatedly declined to say whether harsh interrogation techniques were morally wrong. Earlier this week, however, she wrote a letter to the committee’s top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, saying the CIA should not have conducted abusive interrogations.
“As Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel will be the first operations officer in more than five decades to lead the Agency,” Warner said in a statement. “I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral — like a return to torture.”
If confirmed, Haspel will replace Mike Pompeo, who is now serving as Trump’s secretary of state.