Top Dem questions CIA campaign to secure Haspel nomination

Top Dem questions CIA campaign to secure Haspel nomination
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinLegal immigrants at risk of losing status during coronavirus pandemic Senate rejects GOP attempt to change unemployment benefits in coronavirus stimulus bill Senators pen op-ed calling for remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (D-Ill.) is calling into question a push by the CIA to build support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE's pick to lead the intelligence agency. 

In a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsExperts report recent increase in Chinese group's cyberattacks Acting director of national intelligence begins hiring freeze: reports Ratcliffe nomination puts Susan Collins in tough spot MORE on Tuesday, Durbin noted what he called the CIA's "robust" lobbying efforts in support of Trump's nominee, Gina Haspel, the agency's current deputy director.

Those lobbying efforts, Durbin argued, are unprecedented and could clash with the CIA's job to provide objective intelligence to policymakers. 

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"The need for intelligence agencies to remain on the right side of this line requires a standard of conduct that, in my judgment, exceeds the standards we may expect of other agencies with policy making responsibilities," Durbin wrote.

The top Democrat's letter also lists a range of activities undertaken by the intelligence agency appearing to support Haspel's nomination for CIA director, including issuing a March 19 press release titled "Bipartisan support for Gina Haspel's nomination to be CIA Director from distinguished national security leaders."

The letter asks Coats to "consider whether the CIA's efforts to promote this nomination are in keeping with the best interests of the intelligence community, and whether additional steps are warranted to review the public affairs postures of each component of the intelligence community."

Haspel is well-regarded within the CIA. But senators on both sides of the aisle have voiced concern over her nomination to lead the agency because of her past ties to a brutal interrogation program used terror suspects following the Sept. 11 attacks. 

In private, Haspel has sought to assure lawmakers that she has no plans to renew the so-called enhanced interrogation program. 

Senators have also voiced concern about the extent to which Haspel was involved in the destruction of videos documenting CIA interrogations, a move ordered by then-CIA Director Jose Rodriguez. Haspel was Rodriguez's chief of staff at the time.