The Senate confirmed the nomination of Gina Haspel to be the director of the CIA, with at least five Democrats supporting her nomination. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
May 17 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA, ending weeks of speculation over whether her past role in using torture as an interrogation technique would derail her nomination to become the first woman overseeing the agency.
Though three Republicans signaled they wouldn't vote for Haspel, some last-minute lobbying by former CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta convinced at least five Democrats to vote in favor of her confirmation. She replaces Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed as secretary of state after Rex Tillerson's exit earlier this year.
Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced earlier in the week they planned to vote against Haspel due to her role in the CIA's now-illegal torture program.
"I will vote 'no' on the Gina Haspel nomination," Flake said in a statement Wednesday. "While I thank Ms. Haspel for her long and dedicated service to the CIA, as a country we need to turn the page on the unfortunate chapter in the agency's history having to do with torture. Congress needs to be able to provide fully informed oversight. My questions about Ms. Hapel's role in the destruction of videotapes relevant to discussions occurring in Congress regarding the program have not been adequately answered."
Haspel's nomination has been marred by her involvement in the CIA's torture program, which involved detaining suspected terrorists without due process and using torture techniques to obtain information.
Haspel denounced the torture program in a latter to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
"While I won't condemn those that made these 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 wrote.
Last week, Haspel faced tough questions from the Senate intelligence committee about her role in past CIA interrogations and controversial techniques, like waterboarding. She was also asked about a "black site" in Thailand. Senators also pressed her about the destruction of 92 CIA interrogation videotapes.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the committee's endorsement an "embarrassment" to democracy.
"[The Senate intelligence committee] voted to reward a dark, criminal chapter of our country's history when it shouldn't have agreed to a vote until Haspel's full torture record was made public," the ACLU tweeted. "As Haspel's nomination moves to the full Senate, other senators should do the job the committee failed to."
Panel Chairman Richard Burr, though, called Haspel "the most qualified person" to lead the agency.
"She has acted morally, ethically, and legally, over a distinguished 30-year career and is the right person to lead the Agency into an uncertain and challenging future," he said.
More than 100 retired U.S. generals and admirals opposed Haspel's nomination.