The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 closed doors Wednesday to advance Gina Haspel's nomination as President Donald Trump's CIA director pick, advancing the nominee to a full floor vote where she looks all but assured to win Senate confirmation.
Despite criticism - including from Republican Senators Rand Paul and John McCain - because of ties to the CIA's former harsh interrogation program for terrorism suspects, Haspel is expected to become the first female director of the spy agency. In announcing that he would vote to confirm her nomination, Warner pointed to the written answers, claiming they memorialized Haspel's more "forthcoming" views on the torture program, even while he repeated that he wished "she had been more open with the American public during this process". She needs a majority of votes to be confirmed in the 100-member Senate, which Republicans control 51-49. In her Senate confirmation hearing, she said agents were working under orders they understood were legal. At her confirmation hearing last week, Haspel repeatedly refused to call the CIA's post-9/11 treatment of prisoners "torture", and declined to state whether she believes torture is immoral.
"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", said committee chairman Richard Burr in a statement. She requested a transfer to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center in 2001 where she started September 11 of that year, according to the Trump administration.
Two Senate Democrats came forward during the appointment process in support of Haspel - Sen.
"I don't question Ms. Haspel's patriotism, intellect, or dedication to the agency", Reed said in a lengthy statement.
She joined the agency's Counterterrorism Center on September 11, 2001, the day when Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked and crashed four USA airliners, leaving nearly 3,000 dead. She also oversaw the destruction of videotapes showing torture at the black site.
Her nomination, however, also was applauded by former top intelligence officials and spy professionals who cited her years of experience at the CIA in mostly undercover posts both in the United States and overseas. "Ms. Haspel's unwillingness to share information regarding the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques was deeply troubling". Her specific role in the program remains classified.
According to Politico, liberal Senators Warner, Heitkamp, and Nelson moved from "undecided" to the "yes camp" on Haspel, a decades long member of the intelligence community and CIA operative.
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris says she remains concerned about Central Intelligence Agency nominee Gina Haspel's "commitment to transparency". He said he believes Haspel would stand up to the president if "ordered to so something illegal of immoral - like a return to torture". McCain is battling cancer and is not expected to be present to vote. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel.
Trump himself has said the country should consider resuming the use of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. Democratic lawmakers and other opponents of Haspel have turned to Twitter to demand its release with the hashtag #UnlockDurhamReport.