Gina Haspel, who faces a tough Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, reportedly feared the questioning could damage her reputation and the CIA’s.
But after a flurry of meetings on Friday, Ms Haspel decided to remain.
The tight 51-49 party split in the Senate makes confirmation uncertain.
The post became vacant after Mike Pompeo was appointed secretary of state last month. Ms Haspel would be the first woman to head the CIA if confirmed.
Why was Ms Haspel so worried?
She has been at the CIA for 33 years, almost entirely undercover but most recently as deputy director, and her time at the agency covered the period when techniques that included waterboarding were used in a controversial interrogation programme for terrorist suspects.
Ms Haspel herself ran a so-called “black site” in Thailand, a secretive overseas prison where such interrogations were carried out.
The Washington Post says she was summoned to the White House on Friday by officials worried about her…