Haspel ap­pears to have con­fir­ma­tion in hand

Three more Democrats in Sen­ate an­nounce sup­port for CIA di­rec­tor nom­i­nee

Albuquerque Journal - - WASHINGTON & NATION - BY CHRIS MEGERIAN LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES

WASH­ING­TON — Gina Haspel, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee to run the CIA, is on track to be con­firmed by the U.S. Sen­ate af­ter key Democrats an­nounced their sup­port Tues­day.

Her nom­i­na­tion has been deeply con­tro­ver­sial be­cause she once ran a se­cret prison in Thai­land where de­tainees were wa­ter­boarded af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks. That chap­ter in her 33-year ca­reer re­mains shrouded in mys­tery be­cause of­fi­cials have re­fused to de­clas­sify more in­for­ma­tion about it.

But Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chair­man of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Sen. Bill Nel­son, D-Fla., said Tues­day that they would vote for her.

Warner’s sup­port came af­ter Haspel sent him a let­ter in which she said the CIA’s se­cret prison net­work had been a mis­take from the start.

“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,” Haspel wrote.

That state­ment went a step fur­ther than Haspel had been will­ing to go in her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, in which she pledged to never re­vive the in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram.

Af­ter the hear­ing, two Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Sen. Joe Don­nelly, D-Ind., had an­nounced they would back Haspel. Two Repub­li­cans, Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and John McCain of Ari­zona, have said they op­pose her.

Repub­li­cans have only a 51-49 ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate. With Paul and McCain op­pos­ing Haspel, Demo­cratic sup­port be­came cru­cial to her con­fir­ma­tion.

Now, the sup­port from five Democrats means Haspel likely has the votes she needs. She would be the first woman to head the spy agency, as well as the first op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer to rise through the ranks to the agency’s top spot in decades.

It’s un­clear when the Sen­ate will hold the vote.

Haspel faced an un­cer­tain path to con­fir­ma­tion two months ago when Trump an­nounced her as his nom­i­nee to re­place Mike Pom­peo, the for­mer Re­pub­li­can con­gress­man who is now sec­re­tary of State.

Al­though she re­ceived strong sup­port from the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing for­mer CIA di­rec­tors who served un­der pres­i­dents from both po­lit­i­cal par­ties, Haspel’s role in the in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram led to an out­cry from hu­man rights ac­tivists and many Democrats.

In an­nounc­ing his back­ing, Warner said he be­lieved she would be a ca­pa­ble di­rec­tor.

“Over the last year I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to work with Ms. Haspel in her role as deputy di­rec­tor, and I have al­ways found her to be pro­fes­sional and forth­right with the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee,” Warner said in a state­ment.

“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.”

Heitkamp said Haspel had as­sured her that tor­ture would never be used in the fu­ture.

“While I trust her word, I will also ver­ify, help­ing to en­sure Congress con­ducts ro­bust over­sight of the CIA un­der her lead­er­ship,” she said in a state­ment.

Gina Haspel

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