Published: Fri, May 18, 2018

US Senate confirms Haspel to be first woman CIA director

US Senate confirms Haspel to be first woman CIA director

The US Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to be director of the CIA, ending a bruising confirmation fight centred on her ties to the spy agency's past use of torture. He said this week that "it's just hard to get over" the torture issue.

The tally was 54-45 in her favour in the 100-member chamber, where a simple majority was required for confirmation.

Haspel, 61, is a native of Kentucky but grew up around the world as the daughter of an Air Force serviceman.

Number two Senate Republican John Cornyn said Haspel is well-liked within the CIA, and will provide "objective, unbiased, and unvarnished intelligence" to the president and policymakers. Yet, she did not vote for Haspel.

Just as President Barack Obama's administration did not have the will to oppose torture and back the prosecution of individuals involved in Central Intelligence Agency torture, the Democratic Party did not want to spend political capital on ensuring Haspel was never confirmed.

Those speaking out in favor of Haspel's candidacy - like Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. - cited, among other things, the enormous support for Haspel from within the CIA.

Ms. Haspel formally replaces Mike Pompeo as CIA director and will be the first career clandestine service officer to oversee the agency since Richard Helms in the 1960s and William Colby in the 1970s.

Six Democratic senators - Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida - voted for her. Think of that, in these very unsafe times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror.

Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the intelligence agency with a long career as an agent and supervisor in the CIA's clandestine operations, faced sharp questioning from opposition Democrats and some conservative Republicans over brutal interrogation methods adopted by the intelligence agency following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on NY and Washington.

Most GOP senators and six Democrats supported Haspel. McCain, who was captured and tortured in the Vietnam War, is at home in Arizona while battling brain cancer and did not vote.

"As the first woman to rise from the ranks to become Deputy Director-and now the first woman to be nominated as CIA Director-DDCIA, Haspel says she owes her success to the colleagues she has served with over the years".

"This has not been an easy decision", Warner said, adding that he'd met and talked with Haspel many times in the past several weeks.

Rights groups had urged senators to block Haspel's nomination.

Last Monday, Senators and their staff briefly lost access to a memo based on the first Justice Department report, which was prepared by minority staff on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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