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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Gina Haspel, the CIA woman


The US Senate on Thursday confirmed the appointment of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA despite the torrent of criticism she has received for its connection with the torture inflicted on terrorist suspects after 9/11. Haspel, who worked more than three decades as an undercover agent, will thus become the first woman to run the intelligence agency.

Last week's hearing had been fierce, with members of the public protesting and Democratic lawmakers putting her against the sword and the wall for her dark past as supervisor of the first secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002, where they took conducted brutal interrogations and torture like drowning, among other techniques. This Thursday, however, Haspel survived the Senate test, not only because the Republicans control 51 of the 100 seats, but also because she achieved the support of six Democrats. Surprising? In total, her confirmation went ahead with 54 votes in favor (including the six from Democrats) and 45 votes against (including two Republicans). Senator John McCain, very ill with cancer, did not vote. The former presidential candidate was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and suffered torture. Last week he advocated rejecting Haspel's appointment through a Twitter message. He described her as a "patriot" for having dedicated herself to the service of the country for so many years, but he considered her role in torture as "disturbing" and stressed that her refusal to call those interrogations immoral "disqualified" her.

In that hearing, Haspel was very questioned by the Democratic legislators. The former agent stressed that she had not carried out anything illegal and that, as director of the CIA, she would not take any action that she considered immoral even if the president himself asked for it. She also noted that, as experience had shown, the CIA should not engage in questioning. However, she refused to qualify as immoral the acts he supervised at that time. These explanations seem to have convinced the Democrat Mark Warner, who has ended up supporting Haspel and has been convinced that she "is someone who will stand up and confront the president if he orders her to do something illegal or immoral, such as the return to torture." In the face of criticism, two days before the hearing, Trump had come out in defense of his nominee: "My highly respected candidate for CIA management, Gina Haspel, is being attacked for being too harsh on terrorists. Think about this, in these dangerous times we have the most qualified person, a woman, that the Democrats want her to leave because she was hard against terror. May Gina win! "He wrote in his Twitter account.

The Senate Intelligence Committee had paved the way on Wednesday by resolving to recommend her with 10 votes in favor and five against. Had she not passed this first step, her nomination could have gone ahead in the Senate, but it would have been a sign of weakness for the candidacy. Haspel being the first women appointed as CIA top official is something to be proud of, but her dark past terrifies many.