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The US Senate Thursday voted to confirm CIA agent Gina Haspel as the agency’s first female director in its 71-year history.
Senators confirmed Haspel by a vote of 54-45. The senators mainly voted along party lines, however six Democrats voted in favor of Haspel and two Republicans against.
Sen. John McCain,(R-AZ), who opposed Haspel’s nomination, was absent due to being treated for brain cancer.
Haspel, a 61-year-old from Kentucky who has served in the CIA for 33 years, had strong support from her CIA colleagues.
But her confirmation was controversial, with lawmakers criticizing her work after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when she supervised a black site in Thailand where detainees were allegedly beaten and mistreated.
In her hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier in May, Haspel refused to declare the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques “immoral.” But she clarified in a letter released this week, that “the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”
Her confirmation appeared to have been helped by some last-minute maneuvering by former CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, who contacted at least five of the six Democrats who endorsed Haspel in the vote Thursday.
Before the vote, Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-OR) argued that Americans don’t know the facts about Haspel’s background because the CIA, under Haspel’s direction, refused to declassify records of her career actions.
As the current acting director, Haspel had the authority to determine what documents would be made public.
“Ms. Haspel has been exercising the unprecedented power to personally censor any facts that might get in the way of her confirmation,” Wyden said before the vote.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA), said the nomination was not only about Haspel but about the US grappling with its mistakes.
“The bottom line is this: No one has ever been held accountable for the torture program and I do not believe those who were intimately involved in it deserve to lead the agency,” Feinstein said.
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