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CIA director nominee wins key Democratic support

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Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning. (CIA/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA, is on track to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate after key Democrats announced their support Tuesday.

Her nomination has been deeply controversial because she once ran a secret prison in Thailand where detainees were waterboarded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That chapter in her 33-year career remains shrouded in mystery because officials have refused to declassify more information about it.

But Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Tuesday that they would vote for her.

Warner’s support came after Haspel sent him a letter in which she said the CIA’s secret prison network had been a mistake from the start.

“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” Haspel wrote.

That statement went a step further than Haspel had been willing to go in her confirmation hearing, in which she pledged to never revive the interrogation program.

Now, the support from five Democrats means Haspel likely has the votes she needs. She would be the first woman to head the spy agency, as well as the first operations officer to rise through the ranks to the agency’s top spot in decades.

It’s unclear when the Senate will hold the vote.

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