Trump’s CIA pick Pompeo known for hard-line stances
Washington — Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s pick to be director of the CIA, is a hard-line Republican congressman who shares the president-elect’s pugnacious worldview and, like Trump, spent years as a businessman before becoming a politician.
Pompeo has heavily criticized the landmark Iran nuclear deal, blasted Hillary Clinton over the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya and her use of a private email server and has said former National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is a traitor who deserves a death sentence.
The Kansas lawmaker supports restoring the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata, a contentious terror-fighting tool Congress eliminated after Snowden’s revelations. It’s unclear if Pompeo’s views on using harsh interrogation techniques completely mirror those of Trump, who says: “We should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning.
One statement issued by Pompeo in 2014 offers a glimpse into his views.
After the Senate released its report on the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA, Pompeo rejected accusations that U.S. intelligence and military personnel were “torturers” for harshly interrogating terror suspects captured after 9/11. “These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots,” Pompeo said
That issue likely will come up in his confirmation hearing in the Republican-led Senate.
A smooth confirmation is not assured because many Democrats oppose his partisan work on the Benghazi committee and Republican libertarians would challenge his view on NSA bulk collection.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee, said she would challenge Pompeo about his statements on the torture report. She said he was wrong in 2014 when he said the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was within the law.
“The torture used during that time was beyond any legal justification, it certainly was not supported by the Constitution and the full Senate Intelligence committee was only briefed on this program hours before President (George W.) Bush made it public,” said Feinstein, who called the interrogation program “ineffective” and “brutal.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Pompeo can be partisan, but that he was a “good choice — a solid choice — for CIA.”
“I’m confident that he can take the party hat off and provide good, unbiased intelligence to both the administration and Congress,” Schiff said.
Pompeo, who was elected to Congress during the tea party wave of 2010, served on the House Select Benghazi Committee to probe the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The panel’s final report this summer sharply criticized the Obama administration for a series of mistakes but produced no new evidence pointing to wrongdoing by Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.
Pompeo and fellow Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, however, issued a separate report slamming Clinton and the administration. Pompeo called the former first lady and senator “morally reprehensible.”
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who will be the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee beginning in January, said in a statement that he would vigorously oversee the CIA to ensure it adheres “to America’s principles and international obligations.”
Leon Panetta, who also served as CIA director, said his impression of Pompeo “is that he is a serious-minded supporter of strong, credible intelligence.”
Pompeo has been a fierce critic of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal, which granted Tehran sanctions relief for rolling back its nuclear weapons program. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.
Pompeo denounced Snowden, a former NSA contractor who stole and leaked highly classified documents to journalists, revealing the agency’s program for gathering the phone records of millions of Americans.
During an appearance on C-SPAN in February, Pompeo said Snowden should receive the death penalty for his actions.
“He should be brought back from Russia and given due process and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence,” Pompeo said.
Snowden, who spoke Friday from Moscow via a video link during an event of the Norwegian chapter of PEN in Oslo, Norway, criticized Pompeo’s selection to lead the spy agency. “In my country, the new CIA director believes dissidents should be put to death,” Snowden said.
Pompeo also has fought against Obama’s attempts to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and opposed moving prisoners to the U.S., including Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
Pompeo was born in Orange, California, and lives in Wichita, Kansas. He set up Thayer Aerospace and was its chief executive officer for more than 10 years. Later he was president of Sentry International, a company that sold equipment for oil fields and manufacturing.
Pompeo graduated top of his class in from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and went on to earn a degree from Harvard University where he edited the prestigious Harvard Law Review.