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WASHINGTON—The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday recommended
as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, clearing the path for her confirmation by the full Senate.
The intelligence committee approved in a 10-5 vote to advance Ms. Haspel’s nomination to be the first woman to lead the agency, forwarding it to the full Senate. Republican leaders in the Senate are hoping to confirm her this week, though the vote could slip into next week. She has the support of at least five Democrats, all but assuring her confirmation.
Ms. Haspel, 61 years old, would become only the second person to lead the CIA after spending an entire career undercover. During her confirmation, Democratic lawmakers occasionally voiced frustration about the limited amount of information available about her past and long career with the CIA.
The CIA revealed that she is a native of Ashland, Ky., a graduate of the University of Louisville and a Johnny Cash fan. It also revealed that she spent 33 years with the agency, beginning in Africa and rising through the ranks of the CIA’s post-Soviet European operations to hold top jobs supervising covert actions, managing U.S. spies’ collection of human intelligence and working on counterterrorism efforts.
She became deputy director of the agency in 2017. After her predecessor was confirmed as secretary of state in April, she also became acting director of the CIA.
The major controversy surrounding her nomination was her involvement in a program of interrogations that many critics say amounted to torture. Two Republicans, joining dozens of Democrats, say her involvement in that program is disqualifying in a senior agency leader. At the time of the program in the early 2000s, she held several senior positions in the CIA’s counterterrorism operations.
The program was the subject of a critical 2014 report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, then run by Democrats. The report detailed in sometimes graphic terms the treatment of detainees in CIA custody, describing them as being imprisoned in boxes, chained to walls and waterboarded to the point of unconsciousness, a technique that simulates drowning.
At the time, the George W. Bush administration determined that such tactics didn’t meet the definition of torture, which is illegal under U.S. law. Congress since has clarified that techniques approved only by the Army Field Manual can be used in government interrogations. Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques aren’t approved by the Army Field Manual.
Ms. Haspel this week wrote in a letter to the intelligence committee’s senior Democrat,
Sen. Mark Warner
of Virginia, that “with the benefit of hindsight,” she believes the CIA shouldn’t have undertaken the interrogation program.
“The United States must be an example to the rest of the world, and I support that,” she wrote.
Write to Byron Tau at email@example.com