SENATE APPROVES GINA HASPEL AS CIA DIRECTOR
Haspel, the first woman to serve in the position, is confirmed in spite of some senators having misgivings about her role in the agency’s detention and interrogation programs following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, elevating a woman to the directorship for the first time 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.
Haspel, the current deputy director and a career clandestine officer, takes the helm at a time of shifting alliances and intelligence threats from Iran to North Korea to Russia, and after President Donald 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 alQaida suspect was waterboarded there and senators raised fresh questions about her role in the agency’s destruction of video- tapes 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 she would not revisit such a program. And Tuesday, under intense pressure, she went further, writing that the program “did damage to our officers and our standing in the world.”
In the end, those assurances were enough to win over a handful of skeptical senators. Two Republican no votes — and opposition from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the victim of torture in Vietnam who was not present for the vote — were more than offset by six Democrats, most of whom represent states Trump won in 2016. Haspel also won over Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who had led the interrogation of her record. She was confirmed 54-45. Haspel is set to take over a spy agency that has managed to keep a low profile under Trump in recent months. He was sharply critical of U.S. intelligence agencies before taking office, even comparing them to Nazis at one point. But Haspel’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who is now secretary of state, built a warm rapport with the president.
Inside the agency, Pompeo had a more mixed reputation. He won praise for promoting agency veterans, including Haspel, who served as his deputy, and for pushing Trump to allow the CIA to take on more aggressive covert operations. But Pompeo’s overt politics — he had been a firebrand Republican House member before taking over the CIA — made many there uneasy that their work could be infected by political concerns.
Haspel is free of that particular baggage. Her nomination was seen by many at the CIA as the best chance the agency had to avoid having a political partisan brought in as its director.
Haspel was confirmed 54-45 by the Senate and was approved by six Democrats.