Senate confirms Haspel as first female CIA director.
WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to be the first woman to lead the CIA, elevating a career clandestine officer to its directorship despite bipartisan misgivings about her role in the agency’s brutal detention and interrogation programs in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
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.
Haspel, the current deputy director, takes the helm at a time of shifting alliances and intelligence threats from Iran to North Korea to Russia, unfolding after President Trump tried to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s judgment as part of his broader attack on the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. But it was Haspel’s past that transfixed senators — if only for a few weeks — as they grappled anew with the aggressive interrogation policies of the George W. Bush administration in the years after the terrorist attacks. Haspel supervised a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 when an al Qaeda suspect was waterboarded there and senators raised fresh questions about her role in the agency’s destruction of videotapes of interrogation sessions in 2005.
Democrats and a handful of Republicans pressed Haspel to repudiate the program and sought assurances that torture would not be revisited under her watch.
Haspel told senators during her confirmation hearing that her moral compass was strong and that the agency would not revisit such a program under her watch.