The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA on Thursday, May 17. Gina Haspel, upon being sworn in, will become the first woman to lead the agency.
The Senate voted 54-45 with support from several Democrats. Yesterday, she was confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in a 10-5 vote.
Haspel will replace Mike Pompeo at the head of the agency. Pompeo was confirmed as the new Secretary of State in January.
Haspel has served at the agency for more than 32 years, including an intense period following the 9/11 attacks.
During her confirmation hearing, Haspel vowed to never resume a program of harsh interrogations, which was carried by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11. The program was approved by the president and the agency at the time, but later faced criticism by lawmakers and was eventually abandoned.
Democrats who opposed Haspel’s confirmation focused on the interrogation program. Trump quipped that they are doing so because she is too tough on terrorists.
“Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Win Gina!”
Haspel oversaw a CIA prison in Thailand where Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing which killed 17 Americans, was waterboarded three times. Before she arrived at the prison, waterboarding took place on a larger scale, with one prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, reportedly being waterboarded 83 times in one month.
When Trump nominated Haspel for the post, damning reports surfaced—which later proved to be false—about her tenure at the prison. ProPublica had led the charge with an article claiming that Haspel enjoyed the torture of Zubaydah. The report’s headline was later changed to say “Correction: Trump’s Pick to Head CIA Did Not Oversee Waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah.”
In April, the CIA released a disciplinary review memo written in 2011 that cleared Haspel of any wrongdoing in the destruction of 92 videotapes of interrogations of al-Qaeda detainees in CIA prisons.
Haspel served in a number of posts at the CIA over the course of three decades, including deputy director of the National Clandestine Service and chief of staff for the director of the National Clandestine Service.
Former Obama-administration CIA chief of staff Jeremy Bash told NBC that Haspel “is the rare CIA director nominee that both parties should love.” Haspel also received the support of the editorial boards of New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Weekly Standard.