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US Senate confirms Gina Haspel to lead Central Intelligence Agency
18 May 2018, 03:30 | Erica Roy
Senate confirms Gina Haspel to lead CIA, first woman to hold post
Claire McCaskill voted against President Donald Trump's nominee for CIA director Thursday, saying that Gina Haspel's record at the spy agency showed that her "instincts and judgment" were not "in line with our country's moral compass". National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Haspel has integrity and both frontline and executive intelligence expertise.
But her history as base chief at a black-site prison in Thailand in 2002, where techniques such as waterboarding were used on terror suspects, came under scrutiny during the confirmation process. They said the US needs to close the book forever on the program that marred America's image with allies overseas.
Human rights groups are lamenting the Senate confirmation of Gina Haspel to be CIA director because of her direct involvement in the spy agency's harsh detention and interrogation program. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire announced she would support Haspel, joining five other Democrats: Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Bill Nelson of Florida.
"There is no greater or more hard task than protecting the safety and security of families of our great nation, and for that I am extremely grateful to every member of our intelligence community, including Ms. Haspel, who has spent decades in public service", said Senator Patty Murray in a statement following the vote.
But the White House pushed forward on Haspel, and in her confirmation hearing last week she did enough to secure votes from Democrats who were on the fence, even as she repeatedly danced around questions about whether she thought the Bush-era interrogation program was immoral. John McCain of Arizona, who is battling cancer and did not vote; Sen.
Senator Ron Wyden of OR deserves our thanks for helping to lead the charge against Haspel's confirmation. More than 100 former US ambassadors who served both Republican and Democratic presidents sent the Senate a letter opposing Haspel, saying that despite her credentials, confirming her would give authoritarian leaders around the world the license to say USA behavior is "no different from ours". She briefly oversaw the Central Intelligence Agency prison in Thailand where "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used on senior al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Raham al-Nashiri. But Leahy said he still questioned her judgment and lamented that she has never publicly condemned torture as "immoral".
"What I can say is her classified comments about her background have been as troubling as her public testimony", Democratic Sen. Democrats thus had the power to stop this nomination in its tracks. Flake and Paul opposed it. He said he's convinced that Haspel could and would stand up to Trump, who has voiced support for waterboarding and has said "torture works".
Among those who supported her nomination were six former CIA directors Porter Goss, John Brennan, Leon Panetta, George Tenet, William Webster and Mike Hayden and three former national intelligence directors James Clapper, Mike McConnell and John Negroponte.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
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