WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as the next director of the CIA, putting aside concerns of her role in a post 9-11 torture program to make her the first female to lead the intelligence agency.
The confirmation vote was 54-45 in favor of the nomination.
Four Democrats joined with the majority of Republicans to support the nomination: Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkam of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Two Republican Senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jeff Flake of Arizona — joined the majority of Democrats in voting against the nomination. It also was opposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was not present because of illness.
Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the CIA, will succeed Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state late last month. She will be the first longtime agency operative to lead the CIA in several decades — since William Colby in the 1970s — one factor that garnered her strong support from rank-and-file CIA employees.
Her confirmation seemed assured after she prevailed in an earlier 54-44 procedural vote.
Haspel, 61, joined the CIA in 1985, just a few years out of college. She held at least 20 separate jobs at the agency, including seven postings in Europe, Eurasia and Africa, the CIA said. He duties were all undercover until last year when she became deputy director to Pompeo.
One week ago her nomination was under fierce attack because of her roles in overseeing a CIA torture site in Thailand and her role in the destruction of tapes showing the torture interrogation of a terrorist suspect. At her confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, she refused to be critical of the torture used by the CIA or the destruction of the tapes.
However, on Tuesday Haspel sent a letter to Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, in which she said the CIA’s torture of terrorist suspects after the 9-11 attack was, in hindsight, wrong.
That swayed Warner to announce his support for her, and other Democrats followed.
Despite the 11th hour recantation, Haspel continued to insist in her letter that torture works. “I have noted the valuable information collected,” she wrote to Warner.