Couldn’t help but notice over the weekend that Nevada’s own U.S. Sen. Dean Heller was one of four “no” votes to confirm Caroline Krass as the CIA’s new general counsel. Heller voted no along with Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Rand Paul, R-Ky.
I asked why, and this is what Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith wrote back:
“When evaluating this nomination, Senator Heller weighed the value of transparency and disclosure against the need to maintain national security. The Intelligence Committee is a useful tool in striking that balance. In her testimony, Ms. Kass [sic] indicated that she opposed the release of CIA documents on the basis that crucial legal opinions about intelligence matters are beyond the scope of the Intelligence Committee. Senator Heller opposed the nomination due to the lack of clarity regarding whether or not the CIA will cooperate with the Committee and submit to congressional oversight.”
Well, it seems to me Krass was explicitly clear: The CIA will not cooperate with the Intelligence Committee nor submit its classified legal opinions to congressional oversight. (That, by the way, is a perfectly good reason to oppose her nomination.) Heller has been clear in the past that he wants the public to be able to see at least some of the legal documents underpinning America’s intelligence gathering. For example, he’s part of a bipartisan group of senators who want the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to declassify its rulings on government surveillance programs.
Krass, by the way, replaces acting CIA General Counsel Robert Eatinger, who referred Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to the Justice Department for possible prosecution for allegedly obtaining classified documents in the Senate’s investigation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program under former President George W. Bush. That referral caused Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to call out the CIA in a speech on the Senate floor. It turns out, Eatinger — who oversaw the detention and interrogation program in the Bush years — is mentioned more than 1,600 times in the Senate’s investigative report. Sadly, President Barack Obama has striven to remain neutral in the standoff.
While we’re about the business of getting those crucial legal opinions declassified, it might not be a bad idea to give the public a look at that CIA report, too.