President Trump's nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director, Gina Haspel, appears to have won enough backing to be confirmed by the full Senate, after Haspel came out saying the Central Intelligence Agency should never have undertaken its post-9/11 torture program.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is due to vote on Wednesday on whether to approve Haspel.
She is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as next week, although that vote likely also will be close. "Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA's interrogation program during the confirmation process".
"Gina Haspel is the most qualified person the president could choose to lead the CIA and the most prepared nominee in the 70-year history of the agency", said committee chairman Richard Burr in a statement. But her role "in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing".
She is a career intelligence official, but her nomination has been controversial because she was involved in the CIA's post-9/11 program of detaining and harshly interrogating terror suspects. John McCain of Arizona urged colleagues to reject the nominee over her past role in the CIA's 'enhanced interrogations'.
Of the 100 U.S. Senators, 51 are Republicans and 49 are Democrats; while two Republicans said they would not vote for Haspel, five Democrats have indicated they would support her nomination.
But Democrat Ron Wyden, one of the most strident opponents to the torture program, said he still has "grave concerns" about her suitability, rooted in still-classified matters that Haspel and the agency refused to make public.
"Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the president if ordered to do something illegal or immoral - like a return to torture", he said. Haspel told the committee that she would not resurrect the agency's controversial rendition, detainee, and interrogation program if she became CIA director, but went no further.
'[I] t was a mistake not to brief the entire Committee at the beginning, ' she wrote.
'I won't condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, ' she said, while conceding that 'the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world'. "Her nomination has support from national security leaders and senators in both parties", McConnell said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Trump has said the country should consider using the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.
Among those who opposed Haspel's confirmation is the ailing John McCain, who is a senior member of the ruling Republicans and the party's presidential nominee in 2008.
McCain's warning resonated with several critics of the president, including his fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Her nomination can now be considered by the full Senate.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Gerald Staberock, secretary general of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), said Haspel's expected confirmation is a "terrible message by the United States that torture is not a crime".