WASHINGTON – The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday approved President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to head the CIA, despite criticism over her links to the agency’s torture programs.
According to a communique released by committee leaders, Haspel easily overcame the first hurdle in gaining Senate approval in a 10-5 vote.
Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, although Sen. John McCain is absent while undergoing cancer treatment.
Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said in the statement that Haspel is “the most qualified person the President could choose to lead the CIA and the most prepared nominee in the 70 year history of the Agency.”
In addition, he said that Haspel 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.”
He said he was happy that the committee had supported her nomination and hopes for her rapid confirmation.
After Wednesday’s committee vote, Haspel’s nomination now will be evaluated by the entire Senate, probably at the end of this week, according to reports by several US media outlets.
Despite the controversy sparked when Trump announced Haspel as his pick to head the CIA, everything indicates that she will be approved in the post given that five Democratic senators have publicly stated that they will support her.
The 61-year-old Haspel, who would be the first woman to head the agency, acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that the agency – in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – should not have used a controversial program to torture and interrogate terrorist suspects.
She made that statement in a letter she sent to Sen. Mark Warner, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, before which she had appeared last week.
Trump’s candidate worked as an undercover agent for 33 years and it has been only in the past few weeks that the CIA has released the location of some of her activities in an effort to provide transparency with an eye toward cleansing her image and gathering the support of a majority of senators for her confirmation.
What most concerns many senators is the role Haspel played in 2002 when she was in charge of supervising a secret prison the CIA maintained in Thailand where two suspects accused of belonging to Al Qaeda – Abu Zubaida and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri – were held and aggressively interrogated.