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On Thursday, the US senate confirmed Gina Haspel as the first female CIA director, even though there were deep reservations among some lawmakers that her past involvement in the harsh interrogation of terror suspects was a red flag.

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency passed on a vote of 54-45, with half a dozen opposition Democrats bucking their party and supporting the controversial Haspel’s nomination.

The 61-year-old is a Russia specialist who spent her career in the clandestine service, takes over from Mike Pompeo, whom Trump recently made his secretary of state.

Haspel is widely respected as a disciplined, non-political field agent. She rose to manage the global clandestine network before becoming the CIA’s deputy director one year ago.

But with her past suddenly in the spotlight, she endured a contentious confirmation process during which lawmakers criticised her work following the Sep 11, 2001 attacks, when she oversaw a secret prison in Thailand.