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 United States spy agency to the entire Senate, virtually assuring final approval of her nomination.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is due to vote on Wednesday on whether to approve Haspel.
Haspel pledged at her confirmation hearing that she would never restart the program, in place in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but did not go as far as saying it should not have been started.
On Tuesday, Haspel said that with the benefit of hindsight and her experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one that the CIA should have undertaken. She was also questioned about her role in the destruction of tapes showing those interrogation sessions.
"Ms. Haspel's involvement in torture is deeply troubling, as my friend and colleague, John McCain, so eloquently reminded us", Heitkamp said. She joined the CIA in 1985 and has held a series of high-ranking positions at the intelligence agency throughout her lengthy career, including senior leadership positions within the agency's National Clandestine Service, which oversees the agency's spy operations overseas and its most covert operations programs.
"Gina Haspel and the Central Intelligence Agency have committed one of the most blatant abuses of power in recent history, aided and abetted by a total failure of Congressional oversight", Sen.
In the days leading up to the vote, it was unclear whether Haspel would have the support she needed from Democrats on the committee.
Haspel testified at a Senate hearing that torture does not work as an interrogation technique and that, as director, her strong "moral compass" would ensure she did not carry out any administrative directive she found objectionable.
"Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the president if ordered to do something illegal or immoral - like a return to torture".
'[I] t was a mistake not to brief the entire Committee at the beginning, ' she wrote. However, a letter sent by Haspel to top committee Democrat, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, seems to have sealed the deal for Trump's nominee.
"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", Haspel continued. Her nomination enjoys the support of six former CIA Directors who have served under Republican and Democratic presidents, he said. Some of Ms. Haspel's past actions and beliefs did not meet that standard.
Trump has said the country should consider resuming harsh interrogation techniques.
Most Republicans are expected to back her.
During the hearing, Haspel tried a number of times to dodge direct questions about her attitude to torture and was criticized by New Mexico senator Martin Heinrich for giving "legalistic" answers to straight-forward questions.
McCain's warning resonated with several critics of the president, including his fellow Arizona Republican Sen. But McCain, who is battling brain cancer, is not expected to come to Washington to cast his ballot.