UPDATE: Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA director by Senate

UPDATE — 5/17, 3:44 p.m. EDT: Gina Haspel was confirmed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency by the U.S. Senate in a 54–45 vote Thursday. Ms. Haspel has served the CIA since 1985.

Three Senate Democrats announced support for President Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Tuesday, effectively clearing any remaining hurdles for Gina Haspel’s confirmation to lead the agency.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel, Mark Warner (Va.), all announced their intent to cast votes in Haspel’s favor.

Ms. Haspel had faced stiff opposition from Democrats on the committee over her role in overseeing a CIA prison and her testimony on the use of torture tactics.

Over a decade ago, Haspel served as CIA station chief in Thailand, which had hosted a CIA prison in which interrogations on terror suspects had been performed. It is alleged waterboarding was among the tactics practiced, officially referred to as “enhanced interrogation”.

Haspel was also criticized for authoring a document ordering the destruction of videotape capturing the practice carried out.

Haspel had faced a grilling by Democrats, most of whom had questioned her fitness to lead the agency and had reportedly considered withdrawing her nomination late last week after tense testimony on Capitol Hill.

However, after further testimony and assurances she would not revive the application of enhanced interrogation, Haspel saw support increase among Democrats.

In a Monday letter to Warner, Haspel expressed regret over the techniques.

“Over the last 17 years, the Agency and I have learned the hard lessons since 9/11. While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world. 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,” Haspel wrote in a letter Monday to Warner.

The trio of Democrats who announced support for Haspel Tuesday follow the likely votes in Haspel’s favor from Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Haspel’s nomination had been in doubt after two Senate Republicans, John McCain (Ariz.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) had revealed their opposition late last week. Neither man has reversed their stance on Haspel’s nomination.

Mr. McCain, who is suffering from cancer and unable to participate in Senate business, had appealed to his colleagues to oppose Haspel’s nomination.

If confirmed, Haspel would be the first woman to lead the 71-year-old agency.

Watch highlights of the CIA director nominee’s Senate testimony from last week below.

[Roll Call] [Florida Politics] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy TING SHEN/XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS via Wall Street Journal]

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