The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to lead the CIA, lofting the agency’s acting director into history as the first woman to head America’s top intelligence service.

Ms. Haspel, a longtime undercover officer, was approved on a 54-45 vote, but only after she, the CIA and the Trump Administration navigated a lengthy debate over the agency’s harsh interrogation programs conducted on terror suspects after 9/11, which critics called torture.

Ms. Haspel formally replaces Mike Pompeo as CIA director and will be the first career clandestine service officer to oversee the agency since Richard Helms in the 1960s and William Colby in the 1970s.

In debate before the vote, Senate Intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr praised the depth of her experience.

“She is intimately familiar with the threats facing our nation,” the North Carolina Republican said. “Where others can discuss world events, Gina Haspel has lived those events. She has no learning curve.”...

But the issue that hung over Ms. Haspel’s entire nomination process, her role running a secret CIA “black site” prison in Thailand and her knowledge of interrogation tactics used there, including waterboarding, also surfaced repeatedly before Thursday’s vote.

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