WASHINGTON (KT) – The Senate voted Thursday to confirm veteran CIA agent and Kentuckian Gina Haspel to be the first female director in the 71-year history of the agency.
Haspel, 61, was born in Ashland, Ky., and attended the University of Kentucky and graduated from the University of Louisville.
The Senators voted 54-45 to confirm the 33-year veteran at the CIA with most of her service coming as a covert agent. The vote was mostly along party lines although six Democrats voted for her and two Republicans went against her.
Kentucky’s Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul were split with McConnell being a staunch supporter and Paul being adamantly against her.
“She displayed the talent and expertise that make her uniquely qualified to face America’s biggest national security challenges – whether in the area of counterterrorism or renewed international competition amongst great powers,” McConnell said. “Out of the spotlight, whether at Langley and deployed abroad, Ms. Haspel has quietly earned the respect and admiration of those who matter most – the men and women of the CIA, and distinguished current and former intelligence community leaders.”
A Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 to endorse her as the next CIA director on Wednesday, paving the way for Thursday’s vote. She was also heavily endorsed by former CIA directors from both Democratic and Republican administrations.
“The safety and security of the American people depend on capable intelligence leadership,” McConnell said. “Gina Haspel is the right woman at the right time. Senators on both sides of the aisle agree.”
Haspel had her critics including former generals and diplomats for her role in the now-outlawed torture program of the CIA that came in the midst of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Paul had pause about voting for her because of the torture tactics.
However, Haspel told senators during a harsh interrogation at her conformation hearing last week that she would not restart the torture program if conformed even if President Trump asked her to do so.
Six Democratic senators - Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida - voted for her.
Paul was one of two Republicans who opposed her along with Arizona senator Jeff Flake. McCain, who is battling brain cancer, was absent from the vote.