Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

US Senate panel approves Central Intelligence Agency nominee Gina Haspel despite torture background

US Senate panel approves Central Intelligence Agency nominee Gina Haspel despite torture background

A handful of senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee voted against President Donald Trump's pick to lead the CIA Wednesday.

Gina Haspel's letter to the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee appeared aimed at shoring up support for her Senate confirmation.

Haspel, a career intelligence officer, told Senators she would not agree to restart such an interrogation programme in future, but she has avoided decrying torture as immoral per se.

Mark Warner, offered a surprising thumbs-up on Tuesday after Haspel, the spy agency's acting director, put in writing her belief that the CIA should never have engaged in "enhanced interrogation" techniques - now widely regarded as forms of torture.

Harris says Haspel's unwillingness to share more detailed information about the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques is "deeply troubling".

At the request of Congress, the CIA has declassified documents shedding light on Haspel's career in covert operations, particularly in her reported role at the agency's "black site" in Thailand.

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It will make Haspel, a 61-year-old Russian Federation specialist, the first-ever woman to lead the CIA, and the first director who spent their entire career in the agency's clandestine services.

"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", according to Haspel's written answers to some 60 additional questions from lawmakers.

Of the 100 U.S. Senators, 51 are Republicans and 49 are Democrats; while two Republicans said they would not vote for Haspel, five Democrats have indicated they would support her nomination.

'Gina Haspel is the most qualified person the President could choose to lead the CIA and the most prepared nominee in the 70 year history of the Agency, ' Burr said Wednesday.

Senate GOP leaders have signaled that they want to try to confirm her as soon as Thursday, though without cooperation from Democrats that could slide into next week.

"I believe [Haspel] is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral-like a return to torture", Warner said in a statement. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) ― who are facing tough re-election fights this year ― also said that they meant to support Haspel as Central Intelligence Agency director.

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"Due to the overwhelming public evidence suggesting Haspel's participation and compliance with crimes including torture, enforced disappearance and obstruction of justice, Haspel's nomination is an affront to human rights."
However, a letter sent by Haspel to top committee Democrat, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, seems to have sealed the deal for Trump's nominee.

She also had the support of the committee's top-ranking Democrat, Sen.

"While I won't condemn those that made those hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world", Haspel said in a letter, dated May 14, and released on Tuesday.

Bolstering the comments she made during her hearing, Haspel wrote, "I do not support use of enhanced interrogation techniques for any objective".

Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona, are opposed to Haspel's nomination, and McCain isn't expected to be back in Washington for the vote while he battles brain cancer.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain's Arizona colleague, has stated he is undecided.

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