Confirmation hearings aren’t supposed to be fun, exactly, but some turn out to be far more brutal than others. A dramatic showdown seems likely for President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as CIA Director, Gina Haspel, who will face a grilling on Wednesday by skeptical Democrats wary of her record on torture and annoyed by the CIA’s reluctance to declassify central components of that record.
Haspel, a thirty-year agency veteran well-liked and respected by her colleagues at Langley, has been sharply criticized for the role she played in the CIA’s now-banned torture programs and the tape recordings of which she purportedly helped to destroy. Now, Democrats have to make a decision: help to confirm someone with a dark past, or risk her being replaced by a Trump loyalist?
A Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee aide wouldn’t entertain the hypothetical: “The least of all evils is not what the American people deserve,” the aide said. “Haspel’s nomination is problematic, among other things, because neither the Senate nor the American people has all of the information needed to evaluate her.” Another committee source echoed that concern, noting that there is “broad dissatisfaction with how little and how late the CIA has been declassifying information” about Haspel’s record. Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia sent Haspel a letter on Monday expressing his “disappointment with the amount of material that the CIA has so far declassified as part of” her nomination, including information about the leadership and supervisory positions Haspel held throughout her 33 years at the agency. Warner noted that Haspel, as Acting CIA Director, has the power to order the declassification of relevant material “or to hasten the process” and urged her to “take immediate action to remedy these problems.”