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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.

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