As a veteran clandestine officer, she lived and worked in secret and has never played any kind of public role. The C.I.A., typically reticent to draw attention to the work of its operatives, undertook an overt campaign to support Ms. Haspel’s nomination, declassifying aspects of her career to build a positive public image and authorizing a cadre of former officers to speak with reporters. Behind the scenes, former high-level officials from the agency pressed senators to get behind her nomination.
Their efforts worked.
Her confirmation “will send a signal to the current work force and to the work force of the future that a lifetime commitment to the agency can and will be rewarded,” Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said on Thursday.
Other pressing issues before the agency — including the unwinding of the Iran nuclear deal, resurgent Chinese aggression around the world, the fight against terrorism and the investigations into Russia’s election interference campaign — got short shrift as senators homed in on Ms. Haspel’s record. Most senators asked about them only in written questions after her confirmation hearing was over.
Almost all details about Ms. Haspel’s record at the agency were classified, and officials there defied calls from some lawmakers to make them available to the public ahead of the vote.
At her confirmation hearing, Ms. Haspel said she would obey current law and vowed never to restart a detention and interrogation program like the one she was involved in more than a decade ago. But to the frustration of many senators, she refused to condemn the program and said that it had been legal at the time.
She changed course in a letter to Mr. Warner this week.
“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the C.I.A. should have undertaken,” she wrote. “The United States must be an example to the rest of the world, and I support that.”
She continued: “While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world.”
The letter won over Mr. Warner and a handful of other Democrats. But liberal senators, and Republicans like Mr. McCain who adamantly oppose the use of torture, were not pacified.