Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) announced Friday that he will accept a nomination from President-elect Donald Trump to lead the CIA.
“I am honored to have been given this opportunity to serve and to work alongside President-elect Donald J. Trump to keep America safe. I also look forward to working with America’s intelligence warriors, who do so much to protect Americans each and every day,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The congressman is a graduate of West Point and the founder of a successful aerospace company. He was elected to the House in the Tea Party sweep of 2010, and has distinguished himself as one of the chamber’s most outspoken critics of U.S. diplomatic outreach to Iran.
Pompeo is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as the Select Committee on Benghazi. The Benghazi committee has spent years grilling Obama administration officials about the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of four Americans.
Pompeo is also a major backer of the National Security Agency and its sweeping domestic surveillance programs, a number of which were revealed in 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. At the time, Pompeo wrote, “I am convinced that [NSA’s] intelligence collection actions are not only lawful and constitutional, but also consistent with the critical mission of defeating radical Islamic terrorism.”
In 2014, Pompeo emerged as one of the loudest voices defending the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques ― torture, by another name.
“The information we learned from the enhanced interrogation program was important, and led directly to the capture of Osama bin Laden,” Pompeo told radio host Hugh Hewitt in December of 2014.
Pompeo also criticized President Barack Obama for, as he saw it, failing to stick up for the CIA officers who tortured U.S. detainees during the Iraq War. “It’s remarkable that our president would show us the photo of the Situation Room the night [U.S. Marines killed Osama Bin Laden], but then he turns around and won’t defend the warriors who undertook the actions to make that all happen.”
Torture violates both American and international laws, and has been shown to be largely ineffective. On his second day in office, in 2009, Obama signed an executive order barring the CIA from using its “enhanced interrogation” techniques. A President Trump, however, could reverse Obama’s order. And with Pompeo at the helm of the CIA, the prospect is even more real.
Less than a year after Pompeo made headlines with his fierce condemnation of the CIA torture report, he grabbed the spotlight yet again with his opposition to international negotiations aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
While negotiators were working around the clock to secure a nuclear agreement in the summer of 2015, Pompeo and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) accused Iran of striking “side deals” with the international agency that monitors nuclear programs, the IAEA. The Obama administration acknowledged that there were private talks between Iran and the IAEA, but said they were technical, not strategic, and posed no threat to the United States or its allies.
Pompeo and Cotton insisted the U.S. be allowed to review the language of the technical agreements, despite assurances from U.S. experts that they were standard protocol for this type of negotiation.
“I just find that completely unacceptable,” Pompeo told reporters in July of last year. “I don’t see how a member of Congress can vote for an agreement not knowing what the full scope of the agreement actually is.” Trump was also deeply critical of the Iran deal, and has said he plans to try to walk it back.
Pompeo also shares Trump’s exaggerated concerns over the threat posed by terrorists acting in the name of Islam. Following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Pompeo singled out Muslim faith leaders as potentially complicit in crimes committed by their congregants.
“When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith, and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith,” Pompeo said in a speech on the House floor in 2013. “Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
Trump has focused on Muslims being broadly responsible for acts of terror, and he has continued to back various iterations of a plan to ban Muslim immigration to the United States.
It’s not a stretch to imagine that under Pompeo, the nation’s top spy agency would dedicate even more resources to monitoring foreign mosques and Muslim communities, both at home and abroad.