Human rights groups lamented the Senate confirmation of Gina Haspel to be CIA director because of her direct involvement in the spy agency's harsh detention and interrogation program.
Raha Wala at Human Rights First said the Senate's decision to confirm her was unwise. He said Human Rights First is putting Haspel on notice that Congress and the American people will hold her to her pledge to never reinstate such a program in the future.
Laura Pitter with Human Rights Watch said Haspel's confirmation is a "perverse byproduct of the U.S. failure to grapple with past abuses."
The American Civil Liberties Union also attacked Haspel's confirmation, calling it "a complete disgrace to our democracy." "For the first time in the history of the United States, the CIA will be led by someone with a past role in the use of torture," Christopher Anders, deputy director of ACLU's legislative office, said in a statement, as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as the first female CIA director, despite deep reservations among some lawmakers that her past involvement in the torture of terror suspects was a red flag.
President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency passed on a vote of 54-45, with half a dozen opposition Democrats bucking their party and supporting the controversial Haspel's nomination.
Two Republicans voted against her, while Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured during years spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, also opposed her nomination but is in Arizona battling brain cancer and could not vote.
The 61-year-old Haspel, a Russia specialist who spent her career in the clandestine service, takes over from Mike Pompeo, whom Trump recently made his secretary of state.
Haspel is widely respected as a disciplined, non-political field agent. She rose to manage the global clandestine network before becoming the CIA's deputy director one year ago.
But with her past suddenly in the spotlight, she endured a contentious confirmation process during which lawmakers criticized her work following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when she oversaw a secret prison in Thailand. It was there that al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were water-boarded, an interrogation technique subsequently condemned as torture.
Haspel pledged to lawmakers that she would "never ever" take the CIA back to enhanced interrogation techniques. While she notably declined to describe the interrogation methods as "immoral" at her confirmation hearing, she wrote in a follow-up letter to lawmakers that the harsh program "is not one the CIA should have undertaken."