Trump congratulates first female Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel

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The US Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday as the first female director of the CIA following a hard nomination process that reopened an emotional debate about brutal interrogation techniques in one of the darkest chapters in the spy agency's history.

She was nominated after former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, was selected by President Trump to fill the Secretary of State position left open by Rex Tillerson. Haspel is widely respected as a disciplined, non-political field agent.

Rights groups had urged senators to block Haspel's nomination.

Haspel's nomination process focused on her past.

"She is intimately familiar with the threats facing our nation", the North Carolina Republican said.

"The bottom line is this: No one has ever been held accountable for the torture program, and I do not believe those who were intimately involved in it deserve to lead the agency", Feinstein said before casting her vote against Haspel. Her involvement in ordering the destruction, in 2005, of 92 videotapes - some of which documented the interrogations - while serving as chief of staff to then-Director of the clandestine service Jose Rodriguez was also roundly criticized.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, echoed the sentiment of Haspel's opponents in the Senate. In that, she joined Democratic Sens.

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"She is the right person to lead the fearless men and women of the CIA, has a clear-eyed vision for the future of the Agency, and I look forward to working with Ms. Haspel in the years to come to keep our country safe".

Haspel has been criticized for her role in a program that detained and interrogated terror suspects at covert sites overseas following 9/11.

In 2002, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Haspel was in charge of a covert detention center in Thailand, where the agency conducted interrogations at a secret prison using methods including waterboarding.

Needing a simple majority, the vote finished 54-45 in the 61-year-old's favour. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen.

Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Flake and John McCain, both of Arizona, were the only three Republican Senators not to vote for Haspel during the confirmation vote.

Haspel, who will be the first woman to lead the CIA, is a 33-year veteran at the agency now serving as its acting director. Joe Donnelly (IN), Sen. Some senators expressed reservations about Haspel being the president's pick, citing previous interrogation tactics utilized by the Central Intelligence Agency under her watch as senior leader in the Counterterrorism Center in the early 2000's. Bill Nelson (FL), Sen. John McCain who is now battling brain cancer. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Senate Intelligence Committee vice-chair Sen.

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