The 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.
Haspel cleared a full Senate confirmation vote 54-45 Thursday and will soon be sworn in.
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.
"While the American people have been told that Gina Haspel likes Johnny Cash and talked to Mother Teresa, Ms. Haspel has been exercising the unprecedented power to personally censor any facts that might get in the way of her confirmation", Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said on the Senate floor shortly before the vote.
Haspel was backed by many in the CIA rank-and-file and was robustly supported by senior intelligence officials, including six former CIA directors and three former national intelligence directors, who said she earned the chance to take the helm of the nation's premier spy agency. The vote was mostly along party lines although six Democrats voted for her and two Republicans went against her.
"For more than a decade, the United States has failed to ensure truth, accountability, and access to remedy for victims of official USA torture and enforced disappearance".
In the end, not even McCain's opposition could stop Haspel from being confirmed.More news: Avengers: Infinity War set for NZ's all-time top 10
Trump has congratulated Haspel over the appointment.
"Due to the overwhelming public evidence suggesting Haspel's participation and compliance with crimes including torture, enforced disappearance, and obstruction of justice, Haspel's nomination is an affront to human rights", Daphne Eviatar of Amnesty International USA said in a statement on Tuesday.
Haspel once oversaw a so-called black site in Thailand after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the US.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire also voted in favor of Haspel's confirmation.
President Trump's pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency is a seasoned spymaster who has avoided the limelight during a 32-year career that has included stints running overseas "black sites" where unsafe terrorists were waterboarded. John McCain (R-AZ), who is home receiving treatment for brain cancer, was not able to vote.
US Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell called US President Donald Trump's choice of Haspel to lead the agency "the right woman at the right time".
As acting CIA director, Haspel held final say over what information the agency chose to declassify about her record. A group of 53 former intelligence officials wrote a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee conveying their strong support to Gina, Vox reported. The agency has also released a timeline of her career, showing her journey through the CIA for all her time there.