The US Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as the first female Central Intelligence Agency director, despite deep reservations among some lawmakers that her past involvement in the harsh interrogation of terror suspects was a red flag.
Thursday's 54-45 vote got over the line with the support of a half-dozen Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen.
US President Donald Trump heavily endorsed Haspel's appointment in March, after he set in motion former director Mike Pompeo's move to Secretary of State. Blunt said Haspel has demonstrated leadership and professionalism throughout her 33-year career.
During Haspel's confirmation process critics said she was not forthcoming about her role in the torture program, known as enhanced interrogation, and destroyed evidence.
Six Democrats, however, were heartened by her pledge to never restart harsh interrogation programs, even if Trump requested.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) voted for Haspel.
"I think she's a particularly disastrous choice, being one of the principal actors" in the torture program of the Bush administration, Alberto Mora, the former general counsel for the US Navy and a senior fellow at the Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, told Al Jazeera. This is why American public and the Senators did not know much about her before President Trump picked her up for this job role. The controversial practice, which simulates drowning, has been likened to torture but supporters say it has helped extract valuable information from hardened terrorists.
Warner's vote also differed from Virginia's junior Senator, Tim Kaine, who voted Nay at the confirmation vote for Haspel.
He said he's convinced that Haspel could and would stand up to Trump, who has voiced support for waterboarding and has said "torture works".
Republican Senator John McCain, who is undergoing cancer treatment outside of Washington, did not vote.
McCain stated, "Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense".
Haspel received robust backing from former intelligence, diplomatic, military and national security officials. Ron Wyden of OR, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on the Senate floor Thursday.
The CIA made a full court press for Haspel in the weeks leading up to her confirmation, tweeting about her time as a chief of station in Africa and posting a biography on its website that includes her love of University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball and Johnny Cash - a man who famously wore black to protest the war in Vietnam.