By Karoun Demirjian,
The CIA hand-delivered additional classified documents about CIA director nominee Gina Haspel to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, as the panel’s top Democrat excoriated her “lack of transparency” in refusing to declassify records about her career at the agency.
“By failing to declassify much about your work at headquarters, including decisions that could be relevant to the nomination, the Agency has opened itself up to the criticism that it is only releasing favorable materials while suppressing related items that could reflect negatively,” committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) wrote in a letter Monday to Haspel, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. In it, Warner pointed out that as acting director, Haspel could herself order the declassification of materials senators wanted released.
The latest clash between committee Democrats and Haspel comes just two days before she is scheduled to face the full panel in an open session Wednesday for a nomination hearing that is expected to be so brutal that Haspel recently contemplated withdrawing her nomination.
[Gina Haspel, nominee to head CIA, sought to withdraw over questions about her role in agency interrogation program]
Haspel is all but guaranteed to field stern questions about the roles she played in the CIA’s controversial enhanced interrogation program, including drafting a memo ordering the destruction of videotaped evidence of such measures being used. And many of her answers will be broadcast live.
Should she perform well, it is possible that she could clinch the nomination: Republicans are generally supportive of her candidacy, and a handful of Democrats — such as Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — have sounded positive notes about their most recent interactions with her.
But should she choke under the pressure of the high-profile open hearing, it could potentially cost her critical votes she needs to secure the support of a majority of the Senate. Haspel probably needs at least some Democrats to support her confirmation, as not all Republicans in the 51-to-49 split Senate have pledged to support her nomination.
Haspel was on Capitol Hill on Monday for a series of meetings with senators on the panel whose potential support is in doubt. It is the latest phase of an all-out campaign to bid up her candidacy that has accelerated in the past few weeks. Senior intelligence figures — such as former CIA director Leon Panetta, according to a congressional aide — were dispatched to persuade skeptical senators to support her nomination.
But Warner’s letter suggests that the campaign has not been altogether successful. He joins the ranks of several committee Democrats who have been openly critical of Haspel’s tenure and the CIA’s reluctance to declassify documents that would detail her 33-year career at the agency, 32 of them spent in clandestine operations.
The CIA’s delivery of additional, classified materials to the committee Monday — most of which were related to her biography at the CIA, and most of which panel members already had access to, according to an aide — is not likely to satisfy those frustrations.
“As Acting Director Haspel promised, CIA delivered a set of classified documents to the Senate today so that every Senator can review Acting Director Haspel’s actual, and outstanding record,” said CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani on Monday. “These documents cover the entirety of her career, including her time in CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center in the years after 9/11. We encourage every Senator to take the time to read the entire set of documents.”
Last month, the CIA declassified an internal review that cleared Haspel of any wrongdoing in the 2005 decision to destroy videotaped evidence of brutal interrogation techniques being employed, noting that Haspel was only following the orders of her boss in drafting the relevant memo. A few days later, the agency told senators that it would not declassify any more materials related to Haspel’s tenure at CIA, prompting accusations that the agency was attempting to politically influence the nomination process.
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