Gina Haspel
Gina HaspelReuters

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel to head the CIA amid opposition over her involvement in the George W. Bush-era interrogation program, The Hill reported.

Senators voted 54-45 to confirm Haspel, making her the first female director of the spy agency.

She replaces Mike Pompeo, who serves as Secretary of State after the dismissal of Rex Tillerson.

GOP Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Jeff Flake (AZ) sided with most Democrats in voting against Haspel. GOP Sen. John McCain (AZ), who was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War, also opposes her nomination but is in Arizona battling brain cancer.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and red- and purple-state Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (WV), Bill Nelson (FL) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) supported the nominee.

Haspel is a veteran CIA official who has been with the agency for more than 30 years, but her nomination received roughly half the support from Democrats that Pompeo received last year when he was confirmed as President Trump’s first CIA chief.

Her nomination was immersed almost immediately by controversy because of her involvement in the agency’s post-September 11 “enhanced interrogation” program — now widely viewed as torture. In particular, senators homed in on her time spent running a CIA black site and role in the destruction of videotapes documenting the interrogation of an Al-Qaeda suspect.

Haspel worked to distance herself from the CIA’s former interrogation techniques. She said during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that program would not be restarted under her leadership, but dodged Democratic questions about the program’s morality.

She went a step further in a letter this week to Warner, saying the agency should not have used the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

“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 in the letter, as quoted by The Hill.

Haspel’s supporters say her comments make it clear she would not restart the program and that she was following orders in the environment that followed the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history.