U.S. Senate Confirms Gina Haspel As CIA Director
By Jishnu Nair – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – The full Senate voted 54-44 on Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. This followed a closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee vote the day before. Haspel succeeds Mike Pompeo, who became Secretary of State in April, and will be the first permanent female CIA director in history as well as the second woman to hold that position in any capacity.
Haspel has worked within the CIA since 1985, serving in Ethiopia, central Europe, and Turkey. She served as a reports officer in her early career before graduating to deputy chief in counterterrorism services.
In 2002, Haspel was assigned to a CIA secret prison in Thailand, named the Cat’s Eye. The prison housed suspected members of Al-Qaeda, and enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding were utilized on prisoners. Although such techniques were not defined as torture at the time of their use, they have since been reclassified as torture by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014. For her actions in the CIA’s torture program, many international figures labelled Haspel’s actions inhumane, with the European Court of Constitutional and Human Rights going as far as to call for an arrest warrant for her.
“She’s quite literally a war criminal,” tweeted Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
In early 2017, Haspel was appointed deputy director of the CIA by President Donald Trump. Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee urged the President to reconsider his appointment to no avail.
In March 2018, Haspel was nominated by President Trump to succeed the outgoing Pompeo. The decision was met with strong backlash from members of both parties. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky described her as “the head cheerleader for waterboarding” and questioned her trustworthiness.
An aide to Senator Paul noted that she destroyed evidence of torture, citing a 2005 account that said Haspel destroyed CIA videotapes of the Al-Qaeda interrogations in Thailand. Haspel has defended the tapes’ destruction, saying she was protecting the identities of CIA officers whose faces were seen in the tapes.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, a noted opponent of torture, called upon Haspel to provide an account of her participation in the 2001-2009 torture program run by the CIA. McCain also called upon his fellow Republican senators to reject Haspel’s nomination. Fellow Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who will not run for re-election this year, also rejected the nomination.
The controversy was enough to cause Haspel to offer to withdraw before her Intelligence Committee hearing, saying she feared being “the next Ronny Jackson”—referring to the President’s White House physician who withdrew his nomination as Veterans Affairs secretary over past transgressions while working.
Haspel did find support in current and former members of the intelligence committee. Former CIA directors John Brennan, Leon Panetta, Michael Morell, and Mike Hayden joined 50 ex-U.S. government officials in signing a letter of support for Haspel. The Washington Post reported that Brennan also may have been involved in getting 2 Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats to vote in Haspel’s favor.
“Within the U.S. national security community and among our allies around the globe, admiration for her is unsurpassed,” the officials wrote.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia also said he would support Haspel after she wrote a letter saying that in retrospect, the CIA should not have run its torture program. Warner was one of the Intelligence Committee votes that led to Haspel’s nomination being referred to the full Senate.
Warner was also one of 6 Democrats who voted for Haspel’s final confirmation on Thursday. Haspel will be sworn in. Four of those Democrats are running for election in states that President Trump won in the 2016 election.