Heller voted against CIA lawyer over secrecy issues

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller

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.





3 Responses to “Heller voted against CIA lawyer over secrecy issues”

  1. Keith weaver says:

    But let me guess: Sen Heller voted to confirm to the 9th circuit judiciary one of the lawyers who specifically approved torture on the ground lit was legal because it wasn’t torture.

  2. Jay Bybee — the subject of your comment — was elevated to the bench in March 2003, while now-Sen. Heller was still serving as secretary of state of Nevada. Heller was elected to Congress in 2006 and appointed to his Senate seat by Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2011. So, Heller did not have the opportunity to vote on Bybee’s nomination. (The final vote was 74-19 with seven senators not voting; both Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign voted yes, although the full extent of Bybee’s misconduct was not known at the time.) Interestingly, and shockingly, in my view, Bybee is still listed on the website of the Boyd Law School at UNLV as a “senior fellow in constitutional law.”

  3. Steve says:

    This seems to be at least twice you have liked what Heller is doing in DC. And more than than that you have corrected thing people write about him with some gusto almost regularly lately.

    Is your moderate side getting some exercise? Or could many on the left have been wrong about Dean Heller?

    He sends regular FB updates and they read well.
    I like what he is doing and am glad I gave him my check mark at the ballot.