Haspel’s role at the agency during tumultuous times stretching over two administrations are weighing on senators as they consider her nomination. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the CIA approved harsh tactics, including now-banned waterboarding, on detainees thought to be associated with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
A years-long Senate Intelligence Committee investigation released a report in 2014 that detailed some of the interrogation and detention procedures and policies during this time. The members of the same committee, who have access to classified information, are asking for information relevant to Haspel to be made available to the public.
Trump nominated Haspel, currently the agency’s deputy director, for the CIA post when he tapped Pompeo to be secretary of state, kicking off two confirmation hearings in the Senate. Haspel’s nomination is unlikely to move forward until Pompeo is confirmed.
Haspel’s hearings have not yet been scheduled. Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week where he has yet to gain the support of Democrats.
The senators also say in their letter that declassifying information pertaining to Haspel is critical given that the CIA has actively engaged in a public relations campaign pushing her nomination.
“In the absence of any meaningful declassification of her career, the public campaign on behalf of Ms. Haspel does a great disservice to the American people, who expect and deserve to understand the background of their government’s leaders,” the letter states.
The CIA has issued two glowing press releases about Haspel. The first, posted after her nomination, titled “getting to know your deputy director,” is a bare-bones profile that highlights her public accomplishments. The other details “bipartisan support” for Haspel’s nomination, linking to some news clips and quoting intelligence officials’ statements apparently made to the CIA.
“Yet the Agency continues to conceal information that would allow the American people to assess these accolades for themselves,” the senators write.
Trump’s nominees have been exceptionally controversial resulting with slim confirmations, and Haspel is likely to be no exception. With narrow 51-49 Republican majority in the Senate, Haspel is likely to need nearly every Republican. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has already indicated his opposition to her and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war during Vietnam and fierce critic of torture techniques who has been absent from the Senate for cancer treatment, has expressed concern about Haspel’s nomination.