Central Intelligence Agency nominee toughens interrogation stance, picks up support

Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump's CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency.

The full Senate is now expected to take up Haspel's nomination before the week is out.

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.

"After spending several weeks carefully evaluating all of the information available to me about Ms. Haspel and her career, reviewing her confirmation hearing, speaking with current and former public officials, and meeting with her in person yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that I can not support her confirmation as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency".

Reed's junior colleague and fellow Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse, has already said he would oppose Haspel's confirmation.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

The Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 to forward her nomination to the entire Senate, virtually assuring that she will earn final approval to lead the U.S. spy agency, replacing Mike Pompeo, who is now secretary of state.

Haspel has served as acting director of the intelligence-gathering agency after former Director Mike Pompeo was appointed as secretary of state last month.

Opponents of her nomination included more than 100 retired admirals and generals, who said her role in the agency's use of torture would encourage foreign governments to torture American soldiers. Her maneuvering with Warner came as the Trump administration worked overtime to attract support for her.

Two of the committee's seven Democrats are supporting Haspel, together with Virginia's Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Kamala Harris (D.) in his decision to oppose Haspel.

Debate over her confirmation has been dominated by questions about her part in the spy agency's use of methods including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning widely considered torture, in the years after the September 11 attacks.

Responding to the committee's vote on Wednesday, Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA said, "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".

"This country has not held any officials accountable for the use of torture, so it's even more outrageous that the government is considering someone to the chief intelligence position in spite of her alleged participation in that clearly illegal and immoral activity", she said. In fact, Haspel's claims (in both the hearing and her follow-up answers) that torture did not appear on those tapes suggest that perhaps someone at the black site she ran had made the tapes unreadable in 2002. She testified that they were destroyed on the order of her supervisor at the time, Jose Rodriguez, and that she was not on the tapes.

Flake, however, said in his statement Wednesday that he still has concerns over Haspel's role in the destruction of videotapes of interrogations.

Vanessa Coleman

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