CIA pick’s con­fir­ma­tion looks cer­tain

Five Democrats plan to vote for Gina Haspel, who would be the first woman to lead the spy agency.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Chris Megerian chris.megerian @la­

WASH­ING­TON — Gina Haspel, Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­nee to run the CIA, is on track to be con­firmed by the Sen­ate af­ter key Democrats an­nounced their sup­port on 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 Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Bill Nel­son (DFla.) said on Tues­day they would vote for her. Warner is vice chair­man of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

Warner’s sup­port came af­ter Haspel sent him a let­ter in which she said that 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.

The 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 con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing last week, two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Vir­ginia and Joe Don­nelly of In­di­ana, an­nounced they would back Haspel.

Two Repub­li­cans, Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and John McCain of Ari­zona, op­pose her nom­i­na­tion.

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

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

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 sup­port, 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 again.

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

Cal­i­for­nia’s sen­a­tors, both Democrats, re­main op­posed to Haspel.

“The United States must send a mes­sage to the world that we hold our­selves to a higher stan­dard than our en­e­mies,” said a state­ment from Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, the for­mer chair­woman of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, who spear­headed a crit­i­cal 2014 re­port on the agency’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram.

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris said on Twit­ter that sup­port­ing Haspel would send “the wrong sig­nal to the CIA work­force, the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and coun­tries abroad about our values.”

McCain, a stead­fast critic of tor­ture who suf­fered abuse as a pris­oner dur­ing the Viet­nam War, an­nounced his op­po­si­tion to Haspel af­ter her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, when she de­clined to say whether the CIA’s past prac­tices were im­moral. He’s been fight­ing can­cer at home in Ari­zona, and it’s un­clear whether he will be able to re­turn to Capi­tol Hill to cast a vote.

“I be­lieve Gina Haspel is a pa­triot who loves our coun­try and has de­voted her pro­fes­sional life to its ser­vice and de­fense,” he said in a state­ment. “How­ever, Ms. Haspel’s role in over­see­ing the use of tor­ture by Amer­i­cans is dis­turb­ing. Her re­fusal to ac­knowl­edge tor­ture’s im­moral­ity is dis­qual­i­fy­ing.”

‘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.’ — Sen. Mark R. Warner, Demo­crat from Vir­ginia

Sal­wan Georges Wash­ing­ton Post

GINA HASPEL at her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing last week. Her nom­i­na­tion has been con­tro­ver­sial be­cause she once ran a se­cret prison in Thai­land where de­tainees were tor­tured af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks.

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