WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next CIA director appears headed for confirmation as Gina Haspel picks up Democratic support and is expected to get a nod from the Senate intelligence committee.
Five Democrats have announced that they will vote to confirm Haspel, a career intelligence official who is acting director of the agency. The day before Wednesday’s committee vote, three of the Democrats said they’d back her shortly after she toughened her stance against harsh interrogation.
“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,” according to Haspel’s written answers to some 60 additional questions from lawmakers.
Haspel’s nomination has sparked renewed debate over brutal interrogation practices the CIA used on terror suspects after 9/11. Haspel was involved in supervising a secret CIA detention site in Thailand.
During her confirmation hearing last week, she said she doesn’t believe torture works as an interrogation technique and that her “strong moral compass” would prevent her from carrying out any presidential order she found objectionable.
Haspel also said she would not permit the spy agency to resume its harsh interrogation program, which became one of the darkest chapters of the CIA’s history and tainted America’s image worldwide.
But she would not disclose any details of what she did in connection with the interrogation program or say whether she thought it had been immoral.
Bolstering the comments she made during her hearing, Haspel wrote, “I do not support use of enhanced interrogation techniques for any purpose.”
The Senate intelligence committee is expected to vote in closed session. The full Senate could hold a confirmation vote before the end of the week.
Already announcing their support for her were Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelley of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The only Senate Republicans who are not expected to vote for her are Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Arizona’s John McCain, who is battling cancer and is not expected to be present for the ballot.
Haspel’s opponents, however, continue to weigh into the debate.
“Ms. Haspel is cynically trying to offer mere words in an attempt to win votes to support her confirmation,” said Gen. Charles Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps.
“The definition of moral courage is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons when no one’s looking. Gina Haspel failed that test,” said Krulak, who organized a letter signed by more than 100 retired generals and admirals expressing concern over her nomination.
Daphne Eviatar with Amnesty International on Tuesday called Haspel’s nomination an “affront to human rights.”
“This country has not held any officials accountable for the use of torture, so it’s even more outrageous that the government is considering someone to the chief intelligence position in spite of her alleged participation in that clearly illegal and immoral activity,” she said.