The Senate confirmed Justice Department lawyer Caroline Krass as the new general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Krass's confirmation process had a few hiccups along the way, as senators held off on her nomination amid concerns that the CIA was not cooperating in an on-going investigation into Bush-era interrogation tactics, The Associated Press reports.
Krass is entering the legal fray at a time of extreme tension between the CIA and Congress.
GC Confirmation Used as Political Pawn
Krass currently serves as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, with previous experience at the National Security Council and the State Department to boot.
Krass's confirmation had been held up in part because of an ongoing battle between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the committee's investigation into the agency's interrogation practices following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, The Washington Post reports.
At Krass's confirmation hearing in December, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) voted against Krass's nomination. He essentially held his vote for Krass hostage and urged President Obama to make a statement in favor of declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee's report. Obama did so this week, clearing the way for Krass's confirmation.
Senate Adopts "Lesser of Two Evils" Approach
In large part, the Senate had a change of heart about Krass because of a desire to remove the CIA's acting general counsel, Robert Eatinger.
Eatinger completely infuriated Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other Senate Intelligence Committee members after he filed a criminal complaint with the Justice Department alleging that committee members may have broken the law by taking copies of internal records for its report, Politico reports.
Udall and Feinstein fired back, saying Eatinger made those allegations in an attempt to intimidate the committee staff. They said he was no longer fit to act as general counsel because of a conflict of interest: he provided legal advice on the interrogation program -- the same program under investigation by the committee. After all, he was mentioned in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report 1,600 times. Out of fear of personal liability, he may not have wanted internal documents to be declassified.
That conflict of interest opened the door to the GC spot for Krass. Udall voted to confirm Krass as the new general counsel "to help change the direction of the agency," he said.
Her confirmation illustrates a reality of the GC selection process: the road to becoming GC is often an arduous one and the selection process is often beholden to the whims of external circumstances.
New Era of Transparency, or Just More Secrecy?
It's unclear whether Krass is going to meet the Senate's desire for greater transparency and cooperation. It's not looking terribly promising.
At her confirmation hearing in December, Krass reportedly rubbed senators the wrong way when she said she opposed giving lawmakers access to Executive Branch legal opinions, Politico reports.
"Protecting confidentiality of that legal advice preserves space for their to be a full and frank discussion among clients, policymakers and their lawyers within the executive branch and really furthers the rule of law and allows for effective functioning of the executive branch," she said.
And so it goes ...
- Senate approves CIA counsel amid snooping fight (The Associated Press)
- White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler To Leave for Private Sector (FindLaw's In House)
- City of San Jose Struggles to Get Back Confidential Documents (FindLaw's In House)
- When Are You Required to Breach Confidentiality? (FindLaw's Strategist)