The CIA will be providing senators with an opportunity to review more classified information about President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the agency in a secure room deep beneath the Capitol.
But some senators are not convinced about the commitment to transparency about nominee Gina Haspel, the current deputy director who spent much of her career serving in clandestine capacities.
Jaime Cheshire, the CIA’s congressional affairs director, wrote in identical letters sent late Tuesday to Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Ron Wyden of Oregon, that there would also be efforts to increase the amount of publicly available information.
“Inaccurate public conjecture clouds the discussion and makes the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities more challenging,” Cheshire wrote. “For these reasons, CIA has made public information about Ms. Haspel’s background, and is actively working towards sharing additional information with the public to the greatest extent possible consistent with our responsibility to protect information the disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.”
The three Democrats said in a joint statement that they were unsatisfied with the CIA’s response.
“Ms. Haspel is not an undercover operative, she’s the deputy CIA director seeking a Cabinet-level position,” the senators said in their statement. “It’s unacceptable for the CIA to hide her behind a wall of secrecy, particularly when such secrecy is unnecessary to protect national security.”
“Concealing her background when no sources and methods are at stake shows nothing but contempt for the Senate and the public,” Feinstein, Heinrich and Wyden added.
But in Tuesday’s letter, Cheshire said there were in fact operational concerns at play in keeping parts of Haspel’s record classified.
“The Agency has a duty to protect the identity of all of those dedicated civil servants who, at great personal sacrifice and personal risk, accept difficult and dangerous job assignments on behalf of the country,” Cheshire wrote. “We are confident that the Committee and the full Senate can work with us on consideration of a nominee whose career was spent serving the country in classified operational assignments.”
The congressional notification followed Friday afternoon’s release of a partially redacted version of a memo from former Deputy Director Michael Morell regarding his findings about Haspel’s involvement in the decision to destroy tapes showing the use of torture tactics at “black site” prison facilities during the George W. Bush administration.
Morell decided Haspel was not at fault in the matter, having been serving as a chief of staff to the actual official making the decision to draft the cable regarding destruction. But lawmakers like Wyden said her involvement on any level should be cause to doubt her fitness to lead the Agency.
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