Senate votes to confirm Haspel as CIA director

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday as the first female director of the CIA following a difficult nomination process that reopened an emotional debate about brutal interrogation techniques in one of the darkest chapters in the spy agency’s history.

The 54-45 vote split both parties, with six Democrats joining most Republicans in support. It was the closest vote for a CIA nominee in nearly seven decades, since the law was changed to require Senate confirmation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called President Donald Trump’s choice of Haspel to lead the agency “the right woman at the right time.”

McConnell steered the confirmation swiftly past opponents, including the ailing Republican Sen. John McCain, whose long-distance rejection of the nominee over her role in the CIA’s torture program hung over an impassioned debate. McCain, who was captured and tortured in the Vietnam War, is at home in Arizona while battling brain cancer and did not vote.

Before voting began, McConnell said Haspel “demonstrated candor, integrity, and a forthright approach” throughout the confirmation process and “has quietly earned the respect and admiration” of intelligence community leaders at CIA headquarters and abroad.

Supporters cited Haspel’s 33-year career at the agency. Former top intelligence officials said she earned the chance to take the helm of the intelligence agency.

But Haspel’s nomination was contentious because of her role in a former CIA program to brutally detain and interrogate terror suspects at covert sites abroad following Sept. 11.

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