Se­nate votes to con­firm Haspel as first fe­male CIA di­rec­tor

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - A7

WASH­ING­TON ( AP) — The Se­nate con­firmed Gina Haspel on Thurs­day as the first fe­male di­rec­tor of the CIA fol­low­ing a dif­fi­cult nom­i­na­tion process that re­opened an emo­tional de­bate about bru­tal in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques in one of the dark­est chap­ters in the spy agency’s his­tory.

The 54-45 vote split both par­ties, with six Democrats join­ing most Repub­li­cans in sup­port. Re­pub­li­can Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona, who is bat­tling brain can­cer, was ab­sent for the vote.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, R-Ky., called Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s choice of Haspel to lead the agency “the right woman at the right time.”

Mc­Connell steered the con­fir­ma­tion swiftly past op­po­nents, in­clud­ing the ail­ing McCain, whose long-dis­tance re­jec­tion of the nom­i­nee over her role in the CIA’s tor­ture pro­gram hung over an im­pas­sioned de­bate.

Ahead of vot­ing, Mc­Connell said Haspel “de­mon- strated can­dor, in­tegrity, and a forth­right ap­proach” through­out the con­fir­ma­tion process and “has qui­etly earned the re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion” of in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity lead­ers at CIA head­quar­ters in Lan­g­ley, Vir­ginia, and abroad.

S u p p o r t e r s c i t e d Haspel’s 33-year ca­reer at the agency. For­mer top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said she earned the chance to take the helm of the in­tel­li­gence agency.

But Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion was con­tentious be­cause of her role in a for­mer CIA pro­gram to bru­tally de­tain and in­ter­ro­gate terror sus­pects at covert sites abroad fol­low­ing 9/11.

Her op­po­nents said it wasn’t right to pro­mote some­one who su­per­vised a black site in Thai­land. They said the U.S. needs to close the book for­ever on the pro­gram that marred Amer­ica’s im­age with al­lies abroad.

Sev­eral sen­a­tors said Haspel was not forth­com­ing in an­swer­ing ques­tions about her role in the tor- ture pro­gram or the CIA’s de­ci­sion to de­stroy video­taped ev­i­dence of the ses­sions. They also had ques­tions about her re­jec­tion of the now-banned tech­niques.

Sen. Ron Wy­den, D- Ore., said in a floor speech that Haspel “of­fered up al­most the clas­sic Wash­ing­ton non­apol­ogy.”

He asked how the Se­nate could take se­ri­ously Haspel’s “con­ver­sion on tor­ture.”

Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Jeff Flake of Ari­zona were among the Repub­li­cans who voted against Haspel.

Among Democrats sup­port­ing Haspel are sev­eral who are up for re-elec­tion this fall in states where Trump is pop­u­lar, in­clud­ing Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen. Joe Don­nelly of In­di­ana and Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida. Other Democrats vot­ing yes were Sen. Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, the top Demo­crat on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and Sen. Jeanne Sha­heen of New Hamp­shire.

Other Trump- state Democrats, though, in­clud­ing Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, op­posed the nom­i­nee. Most other Democrats, in­clud­ing those eye­ing pres­i­den­tial runs in 2020, voted against Haspel in what may be­come a defin­ing is­sue for Democrats.

Jones said this week that “it’s just hard to get over” the tor­ture is­sue.

A pro­tester in the Se­nate vis­i­tor gallery briefly dis­rupted speeches ahead of the vote with shouts against the CIA.

Haspel, 61, is a na­tive of Ken­tucky but grew up around the world as the daugh­ter of an Air Force ser­vice­man. She worked un­der­cover for nearly all her three decades at the CIA in Africa, Europe and clas­si­fied lo­ca­tions around the globe. Haspel, who learned Turk­ish and Rus­sian, was tapped as deputy di­rec­tor of the CIA last year. She worked un­der for­mer CIA di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo until Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump moved him to sec­re­tary of state. She has been serv­ing as act­ing di­rec­tor.

Haspel re­ceived ro­bust back­ing from for­mer in­tel­li­gence, diplo­matic, mil­i­tary and na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials. Among those who sup­ported her nom­i­na­tion were six for­mer CIA di­rec­tors — Porter Goss, John Bren­nan, Leon Panetta, Ge­orge Tenet, Wil­liam Web­ster and Mike Hayden — and three for­mer na­tional in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tors — James Clap­per, Mike Mc­Connell and John Ne­gro­ponte.

On the op­pos­ing side are groups such as the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, which says she should have stood up against the in­ter­ro­ga­tion prac­tices then. More than 100 for­mer U.S. am­bas­sadors who served both Re­pub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­dents sent the Se­nate a let­ter op­pos­ing Haspel, say­ing that de­spite her cre­den­tials, con­firm­ing her would give au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers around the world the li­cense to say U.S. be­hav­ior is “no dif­fer­ent from ours.”

In this May 9 file photo, CIA nom­i­nee Gina Haspel tes­ti­fies dur­ing a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton. AP PHOTO/ALEX BRAN­DON

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