Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday called on the CIA to declassify documents that detail the role that Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to be CIA director, played in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation and detention program.
Feinstein sent a letter to Haspel and outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo saying that a full accounting of Haspel’s record in the Bush-era interrogation program is needed to evaluate her record.
“As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms. Haspel, my fellow senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms. Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications,” Feinstein wrote. “I also believe the American people deserve to know the actual role the person nominated to be the director of the CIA played in what I consider to be one of the darkest chapters in American history.”
Feinstein is poised to play a key role in the confirmation process. She was chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee when Democrats released their scathing report on the Bush-era interrogation program and is still on the panel.
After Haspel was nominated, Feinstein praised her record as deputy CIA director, and said the two of them have had lengthy conversations about the CIA’s treatment of terror suspects. But Feinstein, who is up for re-election this year and faces a challenger from her left, said she would wait until after Haspel’s confirmation hearing to decide how she’ll vote on her confirmation.
Feinstein now joins Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and civil liberties groups who have called for the CIA to declassify records related to Haspel’s role in the interrogation program.
During her 30-year CIA career, Haspel supervised the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Thailand, and she later was involved with the decision to destroy tapes of CIA interrogations.
Haspel, who is currently deputy CIA director, faces a difficult confirmation battle over those actions, with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already opposed her nomination and Democrats planning to make that a key issue when she testifies on Capitol Hill.
It’s not yet clear what records the Senate will receive as part of Haspel’s confirmation process.
Asked whether the CIA should declassify documents detailing her role in the Bush-era interrogation program, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told CNN there are “limits” about what matters can be disclosed.
“I think it’s important that members get their questions answered to the degree that they can,” said Burr, whose committee will handle her nomination. “Because this is an intelligence agency, there are limits to how far we can go in disclosing individuals that have been in the field for 30 years.”
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, said he hoped Haspel would work with the Senate to declassify what was appropriate.
“I hope that she will lean forward, in terms of working with us to try to declassify, so much as appropriate, without giving away sources and methods,” Warner said. “I reserve judgment until she has a chance to testify and make her case. … Obviously, there are a number of serious questions about her role in the past. I know members will ask. And, I think she has a right to lay out her case.”