(CN) – The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel to lead the CIA over staunch opposition from Democrats and some Republicans over her involvement in a harsh interrogation program authorized by then-President George W. Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Haspel’s confirmation came less than an hour after she cleared a key procedural vote in the Senate by a vote of 54-45.
The 33-year veteran of the CIA, will now succeed Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state late last month.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., sided with a majority of Democrats in voting against Haspel.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who also opposed her nomination but is in Arizona battling brain cancer and did not vote.
Meanwhile, a number of high-profile Democrats, including Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota, supported the nominee.
Haspel is considered to be well-regarded within the spy agency, but her nomination was controversial from the start because of her involvement in the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” program while running a CIA black site in Thailand.
She was also widely panned for her and in the destruction of videotapes documenting the interrogation of an al-Qaeda suspect.
Haspel said during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that program would not be restarted under her leadership, but hedged under a barrage of questions from Democratic over whether the interrogations were moral.
Haspel ultimately elaborated on her answers in a letter to Warner this week, in which she said the agency should not have used the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, which included waterboarding.
“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.