Christopher Sharpley, Trump pick for CIA IG, is too lenient on torture: Democrats

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Democratic lawmakers lashed out Tuesday at President Trump’s nominee to serve as inspector general for the CIA, saying they don’t think he’s taken criticism of the agency’s harsh interrogation techniques seriously enough.

They said Christopher Sharpley, who has served as acting inspector general for the agency since 2015, appeared to be trying to minimize the impact of a massive 2015 Senate investigative report into torture tactics when he returned his copy to Congress without having read it.

“The point of distributing it to departments was in the hope they would read it, not look at it as some poison document,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chaired the committee when it issued the report and remains a senior Democrat on the panel. “I very much doubt that has happened.”

The report, which revealed striking details of the extent of interrogation techniques used by the CIA, concluded that the agency intentionally misled the Bush White House, as well as the CIA Office of Inspector General and Congress, by claiming harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding were effective.

The CIA lost its copy of the highly sensitive report, then later found it and returned it to the Senate committee at the request of new Chairman Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican.

Mr. Sharpley said he never read any of the full 6,700-page classified report before it was returned to the committee, though he did have copies of the classified summary version. He added that his decision to return the report to the committee was not meant to be a reflection of the quality of the report; rather, he was responding to a request from the committee chairman.

“I made an independent judgment to return the report at the request of the chairman of the committee,” Mr. Sharpley said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, suggested Mr. Sharpley’s decision to return the report could undercut future congressional probes, such as the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Because of the decision you’ve made, it certainly sets the precedent for your office picking and choosing which investigative reports you’re going to keep,” Mr. Wyden said, going on to say he would not support Mr. Sharpley’s nomination. “I think your highest duty here is to follow the law. The notion that the chairman asked for it and that’s all that governed your judgment isn’t acceptable to me.”

Mr. Burr came to Mr. Sharpley’s defense at one point, noting that he was the one who asked the report be returned by a number of federal agencies, not just the inspector general’s office.

“Maybe you won’t necessarily condemn Mr. Sharpley for doing something I think is extremely important — responding to the chairman of this committee,” Mr. Burr said.

During his time as acting inspector general of the agency, Mr. Sharpley said he had issued more than 100 classified reports and 350 recommendations to CIA leadership.

He said there’s a special responsibility that goes with being in an inspector general position of an agency that deals in covert operations and classified information.

“Programs that are highly classified, the more classified they are, they see less light of day,” Mr. Sharpley said. “They don’t share best practices, they focus on mission, and they are not necessarily focused on efficiency and effectiveness.

“You need an IG to look at this and shine that flashlight on those activities to ensure they are adhering to the law, that programs are being run in an efficient and effective manner to give the taxpayer a seat at the table,” Mr. Sharpley said.

“And that their Constitution is being abided,” said Sen. Angus S. King Jr., Maine independent.

“That’s correct,” Mr. Sharpley said.

Democrats also questioned Mr. Sharpley about a Project on Government Oversight (POGO) report that said the acting inspector general has faced two complaints filed with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community and one complaint filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

One of the complaints POGO reported claims Mr. Sharpley and others retaliated against an investigator in the CIA by placing false information in his security file after he communicated with Senate and House intelligence committees.

Mr. Sharpley said Tuesday that he unaware of any open investigations or the details of any complaints made against him.

Mr. Burr said Tuesday he intends to hold a committee vote on the nomination next week.

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