Heinrich, Wyden Urge CIA to Declassify Information About Deputy Director Haspel’s Background

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In light of repeated public statements by former high-ranking CIA officials about the record of Deputy Director Gina Haspel, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today asked CIA Director Mike Pompeo to declassify information related to Deputy Director Haspel's background.

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell and John Bennett, former Director of the National Clandestine Service, have both spoken publicly about Haspel's background in recent weeks, but the President has failed to respond to a Feb. 2 letter from Heinrich and Wyden.

"The background of the Deputy Director of the CIA is a matter of the utmost public interest.  In addition to helping manage the Agency and advise the rest of the President's national security team, the Deputy Director serves as a public face of the CIA.  Concealing basic information about the Deputy Director only serves to sow mistrust between the American people and the CIA.  Indeed, it is a basic hallmark of our democracy that the public know who its leaders are," the senators wrote in their letter today.

They added that classifying this information appears to violate Executive Order 13526, which prohibits classifying information in order to "... conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error... prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency... prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security." 

Their full letter is below and a PDF is available here.

February 23, 2017

The Honorable Mike Pompeo 

Director Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, D.C.  20505

Dear Director Pompeo,

We are writing to urge you to declassify information related to the background of CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel.  As you are aware, on February 2, 2017, we sent a classified letter to the President making this request and specifically describing the nature of the information to be declassified.  Since then, at least two former senior CIA officials have made public statements about Ms. Haspel's background.  Former Acting Director Michael Morell has written that Ms. Haspel drafted a cable directing that CIA interrogation videos be destroyed, and former Director of the National Clandestine Service John Bennett has spoken about her role in the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program.  We have nonetheless received no response to our letter, which we are resending to you through classified channels.

We therefore request that you, as the original classifying authority, declassify information related to Ms. Haspel's background.  We further note that continued classification appears to violate Executive Order 13526, which states, in part, that "In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to... conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error... prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency... prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security."  Executive Order 13292 (March 25, 2003) and Executive Order 12958 (April 17, 1995) prohibited classification based on these same factors.  During your confirmation process, you stated that you agree with these prohibitions.

The background of the Deputy Director of the CIA is a matter of the utmost public interest.  In addition to helping manage the Agency and advise the rest of the President's national security team, the Deputy Director serves as a public face of the CIA.  Concealing basic information about the Deputy Director only serves to sow mistrust between the American people and the CIA.  Indeed, it is a basic hallmark of our democracy that the public know who its leaders are.

Thank you for your attention to this important and urgent matter.

Sincerely,