Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) has also previously described CIA staff who waterboarded detainees as "patriots." (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

CIA Pick Mike Pompeo Open to Re-Authorizing Torture

Kansas Rep. and Tea Party hawk says he would 'consult with experts' on efficacy of waterboarding and mass surveillance

Nadia Prupis

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), the nominee for CIA chief whose confirmation vote is set for Monday, has said he would consider re-authorizing waterboarding and other forms of torture.

In a series of written responses (pdf) to questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, who asked if he would refrain from renewing "waterboarding or any other enhanced interrogation techniques," Pompeo wrote that he would "consult with experts" on any changes to the Army Field Manual, including in regard to "treatment and interrogation of individuals."

"I would expect to consult with the full Congressional Intelligence Committees on any differences that are appropriate, including any changes to law that would be required," he wrote. "If experts believed current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country, I would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law."

Pompeo has also previously described CIA staff who waterboarded detainees as "patriots."

Human rights groups used Pompeo's answers, as well as his track record of support for mass surveillance, to call on senators to reject his nomination.

"Pompeo's responses to questions about torture and mass surveillance are dangerously ambiguous about whether he would endorse abusive practices and seek to subvert existing legal protections," said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, U.S. program co-director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement Saturday.

"Pompeo's failure to unequivocally disavow torture and mass surveillance, coupled with his record of advocacy for surveillance of Americans and past endorsement of the shuttered CIA torture program, make clear that he should not be running the CIA," she said.

In his response, Pompeo—who voted for the USA Freedom Act that effectively ended the collection of metadata, which reveals information such as time, place, and duration of phone calls—also indicated that he would resurrect the program " officials inform me they believe the current programs and legal framework are insufficient to protect the country."

His responses mean the Senate's vote Monday will be a question of principle, as The Intercept's Zaid Jilani puts it. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.),  for one, has vowed to "strongly" oppose him, as his nomination comes "at a time of massive attacks on privacy."

Pompeo was originally slated for a confirmation vote Friday, but a group of Democrats, led by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon—who serves on the intelligence committee—objected to the date as it coincided with President Donald Trump's swearing-in ceremony.

"No CIA director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day," the Democrats wrote in a statement. "The importance of the position of CIA director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned, and debated."

Over the weekend, Trump indicated that he might seek to loosen torture restrictions, saying in a meeting with intelligence officials, "We haven't used the abilities we've got. We've been restrained."

Pompeo's confirmation vote is scheduled for 6:00pm Monday.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP Silence on Trump's Call to Axe Constitution Reveals 'Full Embrace of Fascism': House Dem

"Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler 'great,'" said Rep. Bill Pascrell. "Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator."

Kenny Stancil ·

Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo