Se­nate con­firms Haspel as CIA di­rec­tor

The long­time em­ployee be­comes the first wo­man to run the spy agency

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Lisa Mascaro and Deb Riechmann The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON » 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. It was the clos­est vote for a CIA nom­i­nee in nearly seven decades, since the law was changed to re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

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 Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain, whose long- dis­tance re­jec­tion of the nom­i­nee over her role in the CIA’s tor­ture pro­gram hung over an impa s sioned de­bate. McCain, who was cap­tured and tor­tured in the Viet­nam War, is at home in Ari­zona while bat­tling brain can­cer and did not vote.

Be­fore vot­ing be­gan, McCon­nell said Haspel “demon­strated can­dor, in­tegrity and a forth­right ap­proach” through­out the con­fir­ma­tion process and “has qui- etly earned the re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion” of in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity lead­ers at CIA head­quar­ters and abroad.

Sup­port­ers cited 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 Sept. 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 tor­ture pro­gram or the CIA’s de­ci­sion to de­stroy video­taped ev­i­dence of the ses­sions.

Sen. Ron Wy­den, D- Ore., said in a floor speech that Haspel “of­fered up al­most the clas­sic Washington non-apol­ogy.” Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Jeff Flake of Ari­zona were the two 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 Sens. Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Don­nelly of In­di­ana and Bill Nelson of Florida. Other Democrats vot­ing yes were Sen. Mark Warner of Vir­ginia and Sen. Jeanne Sha­heen of New Hamp­shire. Some Trump-state Democrats, though, in­clud­ing Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, op­posed the nom­i­nee. He said this week that “it’s just hard to get over” the tor­ture is­sue.


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