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US Senate panel advances Gina Haspel to lead CIA

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-05-16 22:13
Gina Haspel, nominee for Director of Central Intelligence Agency, testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, on May 9, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

WASHINGTON - The US Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Wednesday in favor of Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's pick to be the next CIA director, despite her ties to the agency's past controversial interrogation program.

The Senate panel voted 10-5 in a closed session to approve the nomination. The result was expected after two of the panel's seven Democratic members joined its eight Republicans in supporting Haspel.

The full Senate is expected to vote on her nomination as early as this week.

Haspel's nomination has come under fire for her past ties to the CIA's former rendition, detention and interrogation activities, carried out in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks, with the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding, now widely considered torture.

In 2002, Haspel supervised a secret prison in Thailand where harsh interrogations were conducted and she destroyed CIA interrogation tapes years later. Her specific role in the program remains classified.

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.

In a letter dated May 14 to Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel wrote that the interrogation program "is not one the CIA should have undertaken."

"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," she added.

The letter represented a stronger stance on the controversial program than Haspel took during her confirmation hearing last week.

Haspel, an undercover officer for most of her 33-year career with the CIA, promised then that the program would not be restarted under her leadership, but did not go as far as saying it should not have been started.

The 61-year-old Kentucky native became acting CIA director following her predecessor Mike Pompeo's resignation to become US secretary of state and was nominated by Trump to become the permanent director in March.

Haspel would be the nation's first female CIA director after her nomination is confirmed by the full Senate.

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