U.S. Politics

Senate panel set to support Gina Haspel for CIA

WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee is poised to advance Gina Haspel's nomination Wednesday to be the CIA's first female director, setting up a close confirmation vote in the full Senate amid questions about her role in the agency's now-outlawed torture program. The vote, which will take place in closed session and then be announced publicly, comes just one week after Haspel promised senators during a contentious confirmation hearing that she won't try to revive banned torture techniques if she is confirmed. Haspel is expected to win "yes"votes from at least nine of the committee's 15 members, garnering support from all eight Republicans and at least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. She must then be confirmed by the full Senate.

The vote, which will take place in closed session and then be announced publicly, comes just one week after Haspel promised senators during a contentious confirmation hearing that she won't try to revive banned torture techniques if she is confirmed.

Haspel is expected to win "yes"votes from at least nine of the committee's 15 members, garnering support from all eight Republicans and at least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. She must then be confirmed by the full Senate.

Haspel's nomination has reopened a fierce public debate over the CIA's post-9/11 torture program, with lawmakers questioning her 2002 oversight of a secret "black site" in Thailand where prisoners were tortured. At last week's confirmation hearing, senators also pressed Haspel about her role in the 2005 destruction of 92 videotapes showing CIA agents waterboarding prisoners.

Haspel's participation in the torture program has prompted Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky to announce their opposition to her confirmation. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.

However, two Democrats — Manchin and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly — have said they will vote for Haspel. Their votes could be enough for Haspel to win a razor-thin confirmation vote, if the other 49 Republicans remain united in her favor.

Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the CIA, stopped short last week of labeling the agency's past torture program as "immoral," saying it was deemed legal at the time by then-President George W. Bush and the Justice Department.

"I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program," she testified at her May 9 confirmation hearing.

Haspel's opponents said they don't believe she adequately explained her role in the destruction of the CIA videotapes that showed waterboarding. Haspel said she drafted an order to destroy the tapes at the direction of her boss, Jose Rodriguez, who was head of the CIA's clandestine service at the time.

Haspel testified that she thought Rodriguez was going to consult with then-CIA Director Porter Goss before issuing the order. But Rodriguez said in a recent interview with ProPublica that he told Haspel ahead of time that he intended to issue the order on his own, without informing Goss first.

Haspel testified that she agreed with Rodriguez that the tapes needed to be destroyed, but believed that Goss should have been consulted.

"We were worried about an irresponsible leak of our officers' faces to the world," Haspel told senators.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who serves on the Intelligence Committee and opposes Haspel's confirmation, said he believes Haspel's account of the tapes' destruction "is full of holes."

"I have seen the classified material, which I of course can't get into, but there are other holes in the story beyond the fact that her former boss has publicly contradicted her," Wyden said in an interview Monday. "To me, this question of the destruction of the torture tapes is a character issue ... It's a key part of how evasive she's been."

Democrats on the committee have written a classified report about Haspel's record and are offering it up to other senators to review in a secure room before the confirmation vote, Wyden said. The vote by the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.

Raj Shah, the White House principal deputy press secretary, told reporters Monday that President Trump will lobby senators to confirm Haspel when the president meets with lawmakers Tuesday for lunch on Capitol Hill.

"This is an individual who has had over three decades of exemplary service and experience with the CIA," Shah told reporters. "And we hope that the Senate takes it upon themselves to confirm her."

More: Gina Haspel promises not to allow torture program if confirmed as CIA director

More: Sen. Joe Donnelly is the 2nd Democrat to back Gina Haspel for CIA director

 

 

 

 


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