Gina Haspel is auditioned on May 9, 2018 in Washington by the Senate Intelligence Committee who approved Wednesday her candidacy for the head of the CIA
The appointment of Gina Haspel as head of the CIA despite her controversial role in torture programs passed Wednesday the decisive course of a US Senate committee, before a final vote of the entire upper house of Congress.
Aged 61, Haspel is currently the deputy director of the Langley, Virginia-based agency where she has worked for 33 years in covert operations. She would become the first woman to lead her.
She had, however, created controversy for leading at least part of 2002 a secret CIA prison in Thailand, where detainees suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda were frequently tortured. They had been subjected to mock drowning (“waterboarding”), an illegal technique according to the military code but which was among those authorized by President George W. Bush after the attacks of 9/11. They have been permanently banned by his successor Barack Obama.
The whole Senate, where Republicans hold a very narrow majority (51 to 49), must now decide. The vote is expected by the end of the month.
Ms. Haspel can count on the voices of four Democrats. Of the Republican senators, only two expressed opposition: the independent Rand Paul and the highly respected John McCain, hero of the Vietnam War where he was tortured in captivity. But this one, suffering from brain cancer, has retired to Arizona and should not participate in the vote.
Ms. Haspel is to succeed Mike Pompeo, appointed Secretary of State. She says she knows the agency “on the fingertips” after serving overseas – Africa, Europe, Asia – and having been Deputy Director of Global Clandestine Operations.
– “The most qualified” –
She is the “most qualified person the president could have chosen to lead the CIA and the best-prepared candidate in the agency’s history,” said in a statement the president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republican Richard Burr.
Mark Warner, the Democrat Vice-President of the Commission, agreed with the majority (10 votes in favor, 5 against) that Haspel could “oppose the President if he were ordered to do something illegal. or immoral, like the return to torture “.
Gina Haspel on Tuesday sent a letter to Mr Warner in which she said that the incriminated interrogations “were not those that the CIA should have conducted”.
“As director, I will refuse to carry out any activity contrary to my moral sense and my ethical values,” she added.
Donald Trump said he was personally in favor of torture, while conditioning a possible change in the law to an opinion from his defense minister, Jim Mattis, who opposed it.
Gina Haspel had been auditioned for several hours last week. In a tense atmosphere, she claimed that the torture did not work and promised not to resort to it if she was appointed head of the CIA, even at the risk of disobeying the president if it ordered him.
However, she defended the CIA’s extensive interrogation program, assuring that it had provided “valuable information” to prevent further attacks.
One of the committee’s Democratic members, Ron Wyden, regretted his confirmation on Wednesday, saying he still has “grave concerns” after the CIA’s refusal to make confidential information about Haspel public.
This refusal “is solely motivated by the protection of his image,” said the senator, a firm opponent of the CIA’s torture program.