To help counter criticism that Trump's polarizing nominee for CIA chief was the "head cheerleader of waterboarding," the agency is touting her personal interests, including a love of University of Kentucky basketball.
Gina Haspel, an Ashland native and career spy, received heaps of press coverage Friday as the agency continues pushing Haspel's less controversial connections. She faces uncertain prospects in the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing set to start May 9, numerous media reported. Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is among critics who focused on her ties to waterboarding.
Trump's nominee is the subject of a "full-throttle public relations campaign," NPR reported Friday.
Her UK allegiances remain despite attending rival University of Louisville, from which she graduated with honors, according to the agency.
Although born in Kentucky, Haspel grew up on military bases overseas. She has been in the CIA for three decades and is the first woman nominated to lead it, the agency said.
President Donald Trump tweeted last month his endorsement of Haspel to replace Mike Pompeo, who is being considered for secretary of state.
In addition to releasing her interests and biography, the agency has declassified some secrets about her life as a spy, the New York Times reported.
Prior to Haspel being named CIA deputy director last year, she had a series of senior jobs, including chief of staff to deputy director for operations, chief of station in a city of a major U.S. ally and deputy director.
Haspel's confirmation as the CIA director could be a "rocky," according to NBC News.
Haspel has been connected to the so-called "enhanced interrogation" program during George W. Bush's presidency that occurred after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Democratic senators have opposed Haspel's hiring in part because of her role in leading a secret CIA Thailand prison in which two Al Qaeda detainees were victims of brutal interrogations.
Kentucky's Paul, a Republican, has called Haspel "the head cheerleader for waterboarding."
"How can you trust somebody who did that to be in charge of the CIA?" the Kentucky senator said. "To read of her glee during the waterboarding is just absolutely appalling."
"Ms. Haspel is seen inside the C.I.A. as having loyally followed lawful orders," the New York Times reported.
“If it appears C.I.A. is being more robust than normal in supporting this nomination, that’s because we are,” agency spokesman Ryan Trapani told the Times.