Friday morning, President elect Donald Trump named Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo to CIA Director. The nomination requires a Senate majority vote which he is likely to get in a Republican dominated Congress. Here I describe why Pompeo should NOT be approved.
First, I will describe Mr. Pompeo’s substantial credentials. In 1986 he graduated first in his class at West Point. He became a cavalry (armor) officer attaining the rank of Captain. He claimed that he patrolled the Iron Curtain while deployed in Germany. He received his law degree from Harvard and served as editor of the Harvard Law Review (where President Obama also worked). While serving as a Representative for Kansas he served on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Those are pretty good qualifications. Certainly the West Point and Harvard Law Review credentials are not to be taken lightly and cannot be purchased with influence. Those are remarkable achievements by any standards.
CIA director should be a non-partisan position but Mr. Pompeo’s record is contentious. For example, Mr. Pompeo was a vocal critic against Secretary Clinton during the Benghazi hearings and put forth his own recommendations denouncing her even after the committee cleared Mrs. Clinton of wrongdoing. In September 2013 Representative Pompeo broke ranks with fellow Republicans to support President Obama’s request to use military force in Syria. This is not a comprehensive examination but it does demonstrate his ability to be non-partisan depending on the case.
However, some of his ideas, and a focal point of his jurisdiction as CIA director will roll back progress regarding surveillance, intelligence and foreign policy made during the Obama years. Some of these issues are strictly partisan. For example, Mr. Pompeo tweeted on 17 November his desire to roll back the Iran nuclear deal. I personally believe the Iran deal was a good thing.
Of greater concern are his opinions about surveillance. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal he argued to strengthen surveillance powers in response to the San Bernardino attacks. He identified specifically the fact that the attackers made repeated visits to Jihadist websites. Mr. Pompeo stated his wish to “re-establish collection of all metadata and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.” Here I would ask Mr. Pompeo, and all concerned citizens, what is meant by “lifestyle information” and whether or not this is the exact characterization of surveillance which pushes journalists and citizens into a state of perpetual fear over their digital footprint. And although Mr. Pompeo included a proposal for oversight and accountability over these programs I am not convinced that restoring the surveillance capabilities rolled back with the USA Freedom Act is the direction the country needs to take.
Regarding Edward Snowden, Mr. Pompeo stated on C-Span that “traitor” Edward Snowden should be brought back to the US, given due process and that the “proper” outcome would be that he be given the death penalty. This seems like an extreme response however we should honor his commitment to due process. One can hope due process will stand in the way of capital punishment as it does in so much of the rest of the free world.
Most concerning is Mr. Pompeo’s idea that water-boarding is an effective interrogation method consistent with US law. Granted, President Trump has also stated a reinstatement of water-boarding. The difference is that the President does not have to honor much of the grand standing rhetoric of his campaign (i.e. the wall). However, as director of the CIA those opinions can go much further to create a culture which supports or fails to punish violations of US law regarding interrogation.
I hope that Senator Feinstein will take Mr. Pompeo to task and that the rest of Congress will take the time to fully consider the risk of approving such a man for this position.