US Senate panel approves CIA nominee Haspel despite torture background

US Senate committee okays Gina Haspel for CIA helm

Gina Haspel, CIA pick, easily clears intel committee

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.

The committee voted 10-5 Wednesday in favor of Gina Haspel, who must now be confirmed before the entire Senate body before she can become the next Central Intelligence Agency director.

Feinstein's vote was not unexpected, although she said she was open to hearing Haspel out when her nomination was first brought up.

During her confirmation hearings, she refused to condemn the program, but did make a statement indicating that the agency should not have undertaken its interrogation program in which al Qaeda detainees were tortured after the September 11 attacks of 2001.

Haspel's background as a career CIA officer who played a role in the agency's use of interrogation and detention policies viewed as torture has been the key debate in her confirmation process.

"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.

The controversial episodes in Haspel's career include a stint overseeing a secret prison in Thailand where brutal interrogations were conducted, and her role drafting the 2005 cable ordering the destruction of 92 videotapes depicting the interrogation of one detainee.

"Ms. Haspel's involvement in torture is deeply troubling, as my friend and colleague, John McCain, so eloquently reminded us", Heitkamp said.

Two of the committee's seven Democrats have said they are supporting Haspel, including Virginia's Sen.

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. 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 had already picked up Democratic support and appears on a path to confirmation. "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", said committee chairman Richard Burr.

"I don't believe that torture works", she told the committee, but stopped short of saying whether the interrogation program was "immoral" or should have been carried out.

'I won't condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, ' she said, while conceding that 'the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world'.

But she reiterated her opposition to the practice going forward in a letter sent earlier this week to the committee's senior Democrat, Mark Warner, persuading him to endorse her. The full Senate could hold a confirmation vote before the end of the week.

"Due to the overwhelming public evidence suggesting Haspel's participation and compliance with crimes including torture, enforced disappearance and obstruction of justice, Haspel's nomination is an affront to human rights."

Most Republicans are expected to back her.

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