Anticipating tough questions about her role in the controversial post-Sept.
Under questioning Wednesday by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, acting CIA Director Gina Haspel said she would not permit the spy agency to restart the kind of harsh detention and interrogation program it ran at black sites after September 11. John McCain of Arizona, was unconvinced by Haspel's assurances and dealt a symbolic blow to her nomination. While she grew up overseas, as her father was in the Air Force, "Kentucky was always her home away from home", according to her biography on the CIA's website.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney made no apologies for enhanced interrogation techniques and believes the US should "not discontinue" them.
During the presidential campaign in 2015, then-candidate Trump - who received multiple academic and medical deferments to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War - said McCain was only considered a war hero "because he was captured," adding "I like people who weren't captured".
Haspel, though, was tasked in 2002 with overseeing a secret Central Intelligence Agency prison in Thailand where prisoners under interrogation were waterboarded, deprived of sleep to the point of danger, physically and psychologically abused and confined in tiny, painful boxes. Torture is not only illegal and immoral, it's also ineffective.
It remains unclear whether the appeals from McCain and Feinstein - who together comprise the Senate's moral conscience on matters related to torture - will sway any lawmakers on the fence about Haspel's nomination from voting for her. She says she didn't leave for three years.More news: Body in Scotland is missing Frightened Rabbit singer
Last month, Amnesty published a 32-page report on the CIA's torture programme and Gina Haspel's nomination.
King said Wednesday that Gina Haspel is an experienced and respected intelligence officer. Earlier, he said she did a "great job" in the hearing.
Haspel faced intense grilling from the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday, as the 33-year CIA veteran was subjected to aggressive questioning from Democrats about the interrogation techniques.
She has broad, but not unanimous support, from Republicans in the Senate. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. I believed in it. I think we all learned a lesson.
Her appearance may have been assuring enough to get her narrowly confirmed. She did defend the agency's actions as legal at the time and justifiable in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
The protesters were among the first to be allowed into the hearing room and wore signs that read "No Torture No Gina" and "Don't Reward Torturers".