Senate Intelligence Panel Approves Gina Haspel as CIA Director

CIA nominee Gina Haspel testifies during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 9, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday voted 10-5 to advance the nomination of Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, to the Senate floor in a bipartisan vote celebrated by both leaders of the committee.

“Gina 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,” Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a statement. 

“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. I’m pleased to see the Committee favorably report her nomination to the full Senate, and I look forward to her swift confirmation,” he said.

Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) also hailed the vote.

“As Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel will be the first operations officer in more than five decades to lead the Agency. I believe that she will be a strong advocate for the Agency’s workforce, and an independent voice who can and will stand up on behalf of our nation’s intelligence community,” Warner said. “Most importantly, 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 would be the CIA’s first female director.

Only two Democrats — Warner and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted with Republicans to advance her nomination to the full Senate floor. All other Democrats on the committee — Sens. Dianne Feinstein (CA), Ron Wyden (OR), Martin Heinrich (NM), Angus King (I-ME), and Kamala Harris (CA) — opposed.

She is expected to have enough votes to be confirmed on the Senate floor.

Republicans have a slim two-seat majority over Democrats in the Senate. With Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John McCain (R-AZ) in opposition to her nomination, Republicans needed at least one Democrat to get her confirmed.

So far, five Democrats have said they support her confirmation: Warner, Manchin, and Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Bill Nelson (FL), and Heidi Heitkamp (ND). Manchin, Donnelly, Nelson, and Heitkamp are facing tough re-election fights in states that went for Trump in 2016.

Confirmation of Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the CIA, has been contentious, with Democrats putting up resistance to Trump’s nominees and agenda in a mid-term election year.

The fight has mostly centered on her involvement in the CIA’s Bush-era enhanced interrogation program. Haspel was in charge of an interrogation site in Thailand in 2002 where CIA officers had carried out waterboarding and other tactics when interrogating suspected al-Qaeda militants.

The interrogation tactics, which were later banned, came in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. in which al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked three planes, killing nearly 3,000 at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon in Virginia, and at a crash site in Pennsylvania after passengers fought the hijackers.

Haspel also faced questions over a cable she wrote in 2005 ordering videotapes of the waterboarding to be destroyed.

She has promised Congress she would not initiate any new detention or interrogation programs as CIA director and penned a letter to Warner that said the CIA should not have undertaken the interrogation program, which many have deemed tantamount to torture.

Haspel, if confirmed, would replace Mike Pompeo, who is now serving as secretary of state.

.