Veteran covert operative Gina Haspel was approved Wednesday to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency in a crucial Senate panel vote, despite her record of involvement in torture in the early 2000s, AFP reported.The Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 to forward her nomination to lead the USA spy agency to the entire Senate, virtually assuring final approval of her nomination.
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.
Haspel faces opposition from a majority of Democrats and human rights groups for her role in the George W. Bush administration's interrogation and detention program, which critics say amounted to torture.
Mark Warner, offered a surprising thumbs-up on Tuesday after Haspel, the spy agency's acting director, put in writing her belief that the CIA should never have engaged in "enhanced interrogation" techniques - now widely regarded as forms of torture.
"With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken", she wrote in the letter to Warner.
At the request of Congress, the CIA has declassified documents shedding light on Haspel's career in covert operations, particularly in her reported role at the agency's "black site" in Thailand.
"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", Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement.
In the closed session vote, Haspel won "yes" votes from 10 of the committee's 15 members, including all eight Republicans and two Democrats.
Haspel's critics have also complained that the Central Intelligence Agency has chosen to selectively release information about Haspel's 33-year Central Intelligence Agency career in order to put her in a positive light.
Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Bill Nelson said they will also vote to for Haspel's confirmation.
"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.
But not having caught the bigger fish yet is no excuse for throwing this one back, let alone promoting her to head the very organization under whose auspices she committed her crimes.
Her nomination now goes to the full Senate for confirmation.
In written answers to the committee's questions, and a separate letter to Warner, Haspel stopped short of condemning the agency officials "that made these hard calls" and praised the "valuable intelligence collected" through the program - despite the Senate's determination that interrogations were not a viable means of gaining information.
Trump himself has said the country should consider resuming the use of harsh interrogation techniques.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain's Arizona colleague, has stated he is undecided.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Gerald Staberock, secretary general of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), said Haspel's expected confirmation is a "terrible message by the USA that torture is not a crime".