01:41 - Source: CNN
Graham: CIA nominee qualifications 'second to none'
Washington CNN  — 

More than 50 former US national security officials and lawmakers endorsed Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to head the CIA, in a letter sent Monday to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Former directors of the CIA and national intelligence, secretaries of state and lawmakers who have chaired the Senate and House intelligence committees make up the list of signatories. The top intelligence officials include former CIA Directors John Brennan, Leon Panetta, Jose Rodriguez, George Tenet, Michael Hayden and former President Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“Ms. Haspel’s qualifications to become CIA Director match or exceed those of most candidates put forward in the Agency’s 70-year history,” they write. “She has spent more than 30 years of her life quietly serving America and the CIA, routinely stepping up to handle some of the most demanding assignments around the globe.”

Officials within the Trump administration have been concerned that Haspel, who is currently the agency’s deputy director, may have trouble being confirmed for the director position due to her role in the CIA’s past controversial interrogation and detention program, including her oversight of a CIA “black site” in Thailand in 2002.

The letter does not address these issues but says Haspel is a leader who “has what it takes to make tough calls in times of crisis.”

CNN has previously reported that Haspel met with key senators last month to make her case, telling them she understands waterboarding is illegal and that she would follow the law if confirmed, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversations.

Despite uncertain backing in Congress, Haspel has “broad support” from the CIA workforce and among “allies around the globe,” according to the letter.

“It is truly telling that a broad spectrum of national security leaders from both Republican and Democratic administrations has voiced unequivocal support for her nomination,” they write.

CNN’s Jenna McLaughlin contributed to this report.