A key US Senate Committee today approved the nomination of veteran intelligence officer Gina Haspel to become the new director of the CIA despite the bitter debate over her role in the torture used by the US on Al-Qaeda detainees in the early 2000s.
All eight Republicans and two of the seven Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee supported Haspel. The remaining five Democrats had already announced their opposition and did not change their minds.
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.
Haspel, 61, faced questions over her work running a covert detention site where terror suspects were brutally interrogated in the years after the 9/11 attacks. Senators also want more information about her role destroying videos of the torture sessions.
At a hearing last week, Haspel refused to say if she thought torture was immoral. Senator John McCain of Arizona said her role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying.
Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "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."
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.
As Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel will be the first operations officer in more than five decades to lead the Agency. I believe that she will be a strong advocate for the Agency's workforce, and an independent voice who can and will stand up on behalf of our nation's intelligence community, Vice Chairman Mark Warner said.
Applauding the Intelligence Committee's favourable, bipartisan vote in support of Haspel's nomination to be CIA Director, Senator Marco Rubio urged the Senate to confirm her nomination.
With over 30 years of CIA experience, she is perhaps the most qualified person ever nominated for this critical national security role. Her nomination enjoys the support of six former CIA Directors who have served under Republican and Democratic presidents, he said.
"With the multitude of national security threats facing the US, it is crucial that policymakers have the best intelligence possible as they make decisions to protect and promote US interests. There is no learning curve at the CIA for Gina Haspel.
She will ensure the CIA remains the world's finest intelligence agency, and I urge all my colleagues to support her on the Senate floor, Rubio said.
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