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US Senate confirms Trump’s controversial pick to head CIA despite torture role

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – The US Senate has confirmed Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA despite ingrained opposition over her involvement in the George W. Bush-era brutal interrogation techniques.

Senators on Thursday voted 54-45 to confirm Haspel’s nomination in the 100-member chamber, making her the first woman to lead the spy agency. She is a 33-year veteran at the agency currently serving as its acting director.

Six Democrats joined Republicans in voting for Haspel, and two Republican Senators Rand Paul (Ky.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) voted no. Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz.) also opposes her nomination but is in Arizona undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

Six Democratic senators who supported the nominee were Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.)

“I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the president, who will speak truth to power if this president orders her to do something illegal or immoral, like a return to torture,” Senator Warner said in a Senate speech before the vote.

Rights groups however condemned the confirmation vote, saying her involvement in the CIA’s torture program should “disqualify her” from the top position.

Human Rights Watch called it “the predictable and perverse byproduct of the US failure to grapple with past abuses.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said Haspel was “up to her eyeballs in torture, both in running a secret torture prison in Thailand and carrying out an order to cover up torture crimes by destroying videotapes.”

Haspel, a black ops veteran who joined the CIA in 1985, was once in charge of a clandestine interrogation operation in Thailand accused of torturing detainees.

President Trump nominated Haspel, 61, to lead the top US spy agency, after he tapped current CIA director Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state.

After his inauguration in January last year, Trump was reportedly preparing an executive order to reopen the overseas “black site” prisons, where the CIA held terrorist suspects before former President Barack Obama closed them. But later on the president backed off the draft executive order.

Haspel had worked in a number of overseas posts, including as chief of a major CIA station, and served as the acting head of the National Clandestine Service in 2013 before Senator Dianne Feinstein of the intelligence committee blocked her permanent promotion to that job.

President Trump has said he is considering reinstating the use of torture, including the banned interrogation technique of waterboarding against terrorist suspects.

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