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September 2, 2015

Amid Spying Debate, Senate Confirms Top CIA Lawyer

The Senate granted swift confirmation to a new CIA general counsel Thursday, in effect taking authority from an official now known to have ties to the agency’s past detention and interrogation program.

Caroline Krass will take over for an acting official, reportedly named Robert Eatinger, who Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., revealed in a floor speech Tuesday — though not by name — had referred a matter to the Justice Department involving Senate staff actions in the probe of CIA interrogations.

It’s the acting general counsel’s action that seems to have precipitated Feinstein’s acknowledgement of alleged improper spying on the committee’s files by the CIA.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who has previously signaled an intent to delay the Krass confirmation while seeking answers from the CIA, explained Thursday the hold was lifted to get a new leader in the post. The confirmation vote was 95 to 4.

“We need to correct the record on the CIA’s coercive detention and interrogation program and declassify the Senate Intelligence Committee’s exhaustive study of it. I released my hold on Caroline Krass’s nomination today and voted for her to help change the direction of the agency,” Udall said. “The president has stated an unequivocal commitment to supporting the declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. Coloradans expect me to hold him to his word.”

Four GOP senators voted against confirmation: Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Regarding the acting general counsel, Feinstein said in her Tuesday speech:

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center — the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff — the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers — including the acting general counsel himself — provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.


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