Analyst: Trump’s CIA director pick Mike Pompeo an apologist for agency’s crimes

(Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo has been a polarizing figure in Congress falsely stating in 2013 that “the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening” in the weeks following the deadly bombing of the Boston Marathon. FSRN’s Jacob Resneck spoke to former senior CIA analyst Melvin Goodman about Trump’s apparent choice.

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Jacob Resneck: We’ll start with a general question about the CIA itself. Over the years it’s grown in scope and mission. So what exactly is the CIA that the Trump administration will be inheriting?

Melvin Goodman: The Trump administration will be inheriting a Central Intelligence Agency that has become essentially a paramilitary organization. When the CIA was formed by President Harry Truman in 1947, it was designed as an intelligence collection and intelligence analysis agency. It was designed to provide objective and balanced intelligence to the president of the United States and the major members of the president’s policy team.

But over the years the CIA has indulged in politicization of intelligence, this was particularly true in the 1980s when William Casey and Robert Gates politicized the intelligence on the Soviet Union. But the worst example of this of course came about in 2002-2003, when the CIA supported George W. Bush’s decision to go to war against Iraq and actually tailored and manufactured – created intelligence out of whole cloth. So this is an agency that has politicized intelligence.

The other problem with the CIA, that the Trump team will inherit, is this paramilitary aspect. Many of its recruits now are from the military. The CIA has essentially been running the drone program in some areas of the world. There’s been far too much covert action, which in most cases failed, and in many cases embarrassed the United States and the CIA itself. So this is the group that really is the leading agency within an intelligence community that spends about $60 billion a year – more than the rest the world spends on intelligence – and has incredible global reach.

JR: Rep. Mike Pompeo has been described as an ideologue – a hawkish member of Congress. Given his record as a lawmaker and his time spent on the House Intelligence Committee, what do we know but his views on such controversial matters as drone assassinations, waterboarding and other forms of torture?

MG: When you look at the various elements of the CIA’s role in the global war on terror, which included things like torture and abuse and secret prisons and extraordinary renditions, and the ability of Barack Obama to end a lot of these practices – closing the secret prisons, ending torture and abuse – Obama hasn’t completely ended renditions, but I think they have been far fewer of them than there were before. Pompeo has objected to all of this. He’s objected to the closing of the prisons, he wants to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open – something that Obama wanted to do in terms of closing Guantanamo. So all of the activities that the CIA engaged in that were many cases immoral activities – illegal activities and violations of the Constitution in terms of the Eighth Amendment against torture and abuse – these are the things that Pompeo defends.

His behavior on the Benghazi Committee that examined Hillary Clinton and determined that she was not responsible for the aftermath of the killings in Benghazi – you have to remember that Pompeo issued his own 48-page annex that only one other member of the committee, but not the chairman of the committee, was willing to sign. So this is a hardliner, this is an ideologue, this is an extremely partisan and pugnacious individual. To me, this is not the kind of individual you want to see running a Central Intelligence Agency that is controversial enough. And the last time a president reached into the House of Representatives for a director was George W. Bush who picked Porter Goss, and that was a disaster at the CIA and before two years were up, Porter Goss had to be removed from the position.

So you look at the Trump appointments of not only Pompeo but [Senator Jeff] Sessions as Attorney General and Mike Flynn as National Security Adviser, and you realize that all of the things that Trump talked about in the campaign in terms of the immigration and what he would do with regard to Muslims in the United States, and the use of American force in places such as the Middle East – he’s putting people into place that agree with those positions.

JR: I don’t know if you’re a betting man, but as any Trump appointment for CIA director will need to be approved by the U.S. Senate, how do you rate his chances of being confirmed on Capitol Hill?

MG: Well, I am a betting man and he’ll have no problems on the Hill; Pompeo will go through easily. There will be some Democratic opposition, but the Democrats have not proven to be extremely forceful and energetic in taking positions in contrast to the positions Republican Party, for example. So I expect him to be confirmed easily.

Melvin Goodman was a CIA analyst for 24 years and ran the Soviet Union desk for a decade. He’s an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and director of the National Security Project of the Center for International Policy in Washington. He’s also the author of several books including the forthcoming title: Whistleblower at the CIA: An Insider’s Account of the Politics of Intelligence. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

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