from the that's...-a-concern dept
Last Friday, the first three of Donald Trump's appointments were up for vote -- with his DOD and DHS nominees sailing through with an easy vote. However, the Senate blocked Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for CIA. As we've discussed in the past, Pompeo is not concerned with violating civil liberties. In the past, we've noted that Pompeo put forth a sneaky fake amendment that pretended to defund NSA metadata collection, but which really reinforced it. He's further defended spying on Americans' metadata as the way government is supposed to operate. Oh, and did we mention that he angrily denounced SXSW for daring to have Ed Snowden speak there.
That's all quite concerning. But in opposing Pompeo for the CIA slot, Senator Ron Wyden has raised even more concerns -- including about Pompeo's willingness (or even eagerness) to use information hacked by the Russians to spy on Americans (and not just the Russians, but anyone else as well). That... should be concerning. As Marcy Wheeler explains, there were a long series of questions all leading up to the basic idea that Pompeo has no problem using whatever info is given to him to spy on people domestically, even if it comes from foreign hacking.
Wyden’s persistent concerns in his post-hearing questions pertained to whether and how Pompeo would be willing to cooperate with the Russians. Raising a Pompeo hearing comment that if a foreign partner gave the CIA information on US persons “independently,” “it may be appropriate of CIA to collect [that] information in bulk,” Wyden raised Trump’s encouragement of Russian hacking and asked what circumstances would make foreign collection so improper that CIA should not receive such information. Pompeo responded, “information obtained through such egregious conduct may be appropriate for the CIA to use or disseminate.”
Wyden then listed out a bunch of conditions, such as information coming from an adversary, to disrupt US democracy, information implicating First Amendment protected political activity, or information affecting thousands or millions of Americans. “The listed conditions could all be relevant,” Pompeo responded, remaining non-committal.
The full post-hearing questions can be found at that link, if you'd like to look them over. Meanwhile, Wyden is clearly not at all satisfied with Pompeo's answers, putting out a statement this morning saying:
Rep. Pompeo showed he's perfectly comfortable saying one thing on Monday, and the opposite on Tuesday. But his record reveals extreme positions, including enthusiasm for sweeping new surveillance programs targeting Americans and an openness to sending our country backward with regard to torture. Furthermore, his views on intelligence assessments on Russian interference in our election shifted along with the presidents', raising questions about the nominee’s objectivity.
There's been much made (especially over the weekend) about a potential rift between the CIA and Donald Trump, but no matter what, the CIA has a pretty long history of abuse of its powers in often dangerous ways. A person who has a history of supporting expanded spying on Americans (as a normal thing that government should do), and one who sees no problem using data hacked by foreign adversaries to then spy on Americans, seems like someone who should not be running the CIA right now.