Though the Democrats and their allies raised the alarm against Gina Haspel’s nomination to the office of CIA Director, the veteran agency officer was confirmed in the post today by a vote of 51-43 according to the CBC – earning the votes of some Democrats who differed in opinion with the wider party position. Perhaps most notably, high-ranking Sen. Mark Warner voted in favor of the nomination. Sen. Warner also sits on the intelligence committee which informs and oversees the nomination process.
Moving into a position previously occupied by Mike Pompeo – who himself moved on to serve the American public as Secretary of State – Haspel is a seasoned CIA operative who has served for 33 years with the agency. She will also make history inasmuch as she will become the very first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency. For the majority of her career, Haspel worked as an undercover officer, at home and abroad.
A great deal of the controversy surrounding her recommendation to the position comes from anti-Trump political forces focused on her past involvement with operations utilizing torture to gain intelligence. In 2002, Haspel was a CIA station chief while working in Thailand, and at this time, torture was employed at an off-the-books detention facility – waterboarding being specifically mentioned.
When questioned about this as part of the nomination process, Haspel publicly repudiated the use of torture moving forward and openly regretted the actions the agency had taken in the past. The New York Times quotes the letter that Haspel penned to Sen. Warner in his role as Vice Chair of the Select Committee.
“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the C.I.A. should have undertaken… The United States must be an example to the rest of the world, and I support that.”
Shortly thereafter, Sen. Warner and two of his Democrat colleagues – Sen. Heida Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida – announced that they too would be joining the Republicans in support of President Trump’s candidate.
Trump tweeted at 5:00 EST in support of his new appointee, a modest yet hard-won triumph for him and his supporters across the nation. In comparison to President Trump’s more easily-won victories with regards to his appointments – retired general James Mattis won the position of Secretary of Defense with a resounding 98-1 tally – there was a great deal more obstruction and delay in getting the deal inked for Haspel.
Opposing her confirmation were various non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the majority of the Democratic members of the Senate, and Republican Sen. John McCain who is currently battling brain cancer.