Democrats demand more details on CIA nominee’s covert work

Democrats demand more details on CIA nominee's covert work
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Democratic senators on Wednesday stepped up their demands for more information about the former undercover spy President Donald Trump has picked to lead the CIA, and said the public has a right to know about her role in the harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists after 9/11 as well as other “disturbing facts about her record.”

The CIA has told the lawmakers it was considering releasing further details about Gina Haspel, the current deputy CIA director. But it’s unclear whether that might include information the Democrats are seeking about her 33-year career at the agency, including 32 years undercover.

The senators, all members of the Senate intelligence committee, said a CIA’s letter sent Tuesday in response to their requests was “wholly inadequate.”

“Concealing her background when no sources and methods are at stake shows nothing but contempt for the Senate and the public,” said Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Many former intelligence officials back Haspel’s nomination and say having a veteran spymaster atop the CIA would be reassuring as the U.S. faces multiple international threats.

Most senators are deciding whether they will vote to confirm her.

Wyden, Feinstein and Heinrich have made five requests to the CIA to provide details of Haspel’s work, including the years she was involved in the now-defunct rendition, detention and harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Democrats also asked about a memo Haspel drafted to order the destruction of 92 videotapes of brutal interrogations. The actual order to destroy them was issued by her boss, Jose Rodriguez, then-chief of the CIA’s clandestine service.

Last week, the CIA released a declassified memo on the results of an internal investigation that cleared Haspel of any wrongdoing in the shredding of the tapes in 2005. That review followed a Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the committee, wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week seeking a copy of the department’s report.

The senators did not elaborate on what they meant by “other disturbing facts” about Haspel’s record.

In a letter to the Democrats, Jaime Cheshire, the CIA’s director of congressional affairs, said the agency was working to disclose more information about Haspel to the public and make classified background materials available in the Office of Senate Security to senators considering her nomination.

In cases where material remains classified or cannot be disclosed because it’s protected under law, the CIA will work with the committee to provide access to the full Senate in classified forums, the CIA wrote. While much about the rendition and interrogation program has been released, the CIA said it continues to protect information about agency personnel involved in the program as well as information about the operation and locations of overseas detention sites.

“There have been death threats and security incidents involving officers who have been alleged to have worked in the former rendition, detention and interrogation program,” the agency wrote.

A committee hearing on Haspel is scheduled for May 9.

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