Senate Intelligence Committee Backs Gina Haspel To Lead The CIA

Haspel looks all but assured to win confirmation in a vote before the full Senate.

WASHINGTON ― In a closed session on Wednesday, the Senate intelligence committee voted 10-5 to back the nomination of Gina Haspel as the next CIA director.

Haspel now is all but assured to win confirmation in a vote before the full Senate that could come as early as Thursday.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, announced he would support Haspel on Tuesday, giving cover to several other of his Democratic colleagues who later said they would also vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s controversial nominee to lead the agency.

“I believe [Haspel] is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral—like a return to torture,” Warner said in a statement.

Shortly after Warner’s statement, moderate Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) ― who are facing tough re-election fights this year ― also said that they intended to support Haspel as CIA director.

In a letter to Warner on Monday, Haspel said that the CIA shouldn’t have undertaken its controversial enhanced interrogation program ― which included waterboarding ― because such methods “did damage to our officers and our standing in the world.” Haspel’s letter went further than her remarks in her confirmation hearing last week, in which she refused to say whether the torture program was immoral.

One surprise announcement regarding Haspel’s nomination on Tuesday came from Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the freshman senator from deep red Alabama. Jones pointed to Haspel’s role in the George W. Bush-era interrogation program as a reason why he opposed her leading the CIA.

“There is a legal and moral responsibility that comes with operating in secrecy. Some of Ms. Haspel’s past actions and beliefs did not meet that standard. We must choose leaders that consistently embody our highest ideals, rather than our darkest moments,” Jones said in a statement.

Aaron Bernstein / Reuters