Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, appeared to have secured her position after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Wednesday to send Haspel's nomination to the floor. The committee voted 10 to 5 in favor of her nomination.
Haspel is likely to be confirmed as the CIA’s next director in a final vote later this week, as a number of senators, including some Democrats, announced that they would back her nomination. If confirmed, she will be the first female CIA director having already been the second female CIA deputy director.
In a statement announcing the outcome, the committee’s chairman, Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina), called Haspel “the most qualified person” President Trump could have chosen for the Cabinet post.
“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,” Senator Burr said.
Two Democrats, Senators Mark Warner (Virginia), the vice chairman of the committee, and Joe Manchin (West Virginia), sided with Republicans in approving her nomination. So far, five Democrats have said they will vote for Haspel including Warner, Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Bill Nelson (Florida) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana). All of them, except for Warner, are up for re-election in red and purple states carried by Trump in the 2016 election.
GOP Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) opposes her nomination, as does GOP Senator John McCain (Arizona), who is battling brain cancer and is unlikely to return to Washington to formally vote against her. A few senators remain on the fence. GOP Senators Jeff Flake (Arizona) and Mike Rounds (South Dakota) reiterated this week that they remain undecided. Even if they both voted no, their opposition would not be enough to sink Haspel.
Haspel played a role in the agency's use of interrogation and detention policies viewed as torture which has been the key debate in her confirmation process. Many critics of Haspel say that her work in the post-9/11 CIA was disqualifying for someone who wanted to lead the agency.
Her defenders said she was highly qualified to run the agency and was following orders in the environment that followed the worst terrorist attack in US history.
During her hearing, last week, Haspel said that she would not allow the CIA to go back to engaging in such methods of interrogation.
Haspel joined the CIA in January 1985. She held several undercover overseas positions, for many of which she was station chief. Her first field assignments were from 1987–1989 in Ethiopia, Central Eurasia and Turkey, followed by several assignments in Europe and Central Eurasia from 1990 to 2001.
From 2001 to 2003, her position was listed as ‘Deputy Group Chief, Counterterrorism Center’.
Between October and December 2002, Haspel was assigned to oversee a secret CIA prison in Thailand, code-named Cat's Eye, which housed persons suspected of involvement in Al-Qaeda. The prison was part of the US government's extraordinary rendition programme after the 9/11 attacks. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, was subjected to waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques.
After working in Thailand, she served as an operations officer at the Counterterrorism Center near Washington, DC. She later served as the CIA's station chief in London and, in 2011, New York.