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Confirmation Hearing of Mike Pompeo for CIA Director. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] SEN. RON WYDEN, (D), OREGON: And if you would, before we vote, I would like you to furnish in writing what kind of limits you think there ought to be on something like this.

Let me see if I can get in one more question. The president-elect had indicated on the Apple issue that, in effect, he thought that there shouldn't be strong encryption and that he basically would consider pushing for mandated backdoors in the encrypted products. That's been the position of the FBI, some very influential members of Congress. Now, you have not been a cheerleader, as far as I can tell, for weakening strong encryption, which is something I think that sounds constructive. If you're confirmed as CIA director, are you willing to take the president, the FBI, and influential members of Congress on, on this issue? Because I think it's clear, weakening strong encryption will leave us less safe. And I would like to hear your views with respect to strong encryption. And would you be willing to take the president, the FBI, influential members of Congress on when they advocate it, because they're going to.

REP. MIKE POMPEO, (R), KANSAS & CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Senator, first of all, I did not mean at all to suggest you were second to anyone with respect to keeping America safe. If I implied that, I did not intend that. You should know I take a back seat to no one with respect to protecting Americans' privacy either. I think that is incredibly, incredibly important.

With respect to encryption, it's a complicated issue. I know enough about it to begin to form judgments. But I want to talk to you about the process, the framework I'll use. I think this applies across a broad range of issues we'll discuss today. When we're dealing about an issue like encryption that has commercial implications, national security implications, privacy implications, I will do my best to understand what it means to the Central Intelligence Agency, what it means to our capacity to keep America safe. And I will represent its interests as my part of a larger effort to make sure that we get that policy decision right. And if, in fact, it is the conclusions of folks at the agency and our team, and I concur in that assessment, I can assure you I will present that rigorously, whatever the views of the president are or any of the members of his team. I will do my best to get that right and represent -- do my role as the director of the CIA if I'm confirmed.

WYDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Pompeo, first. let me say that I was very heartened by our meeting and our telephone call in which you showed that you fully understood the role that you have as CIA director to keep this committee well- informed. I expressed to you my frustration of questioning members of the intelligence committee and then finding that there was more to the story and that there were omissions at times, not deception, but omissions. And even more frustrating, reading in the paper the next day leaks that have come from the administration, not necessarily the CIA. And I think that erodes the trust that is essential for us to perform our oversight function, which is absolutely critical, since you don't have the regular oversight mechanisms. And just for the record, if you could reassure me again on your willingness to be very forthright with this committee, I would appreciate it.

POMPEO: Yes, ma'am. I can assure you of that. We talked about the fact that I have lived that life a bit as well. And I understand, it's not only in -- that interest is so broad, right? This is what -- you spoke to it, you mentioned it here. This is a unique space where we operate in places where the American public doesn't always get a chance to see everything. And so, the willingness to make sure that we share this information to policymakers, who we trust will keep this information safe and secure and handle this information appropriately, is absolutely critical. You have my assurance I'll do everything to make sure that this committee has a relationship with an agency that is forthright each and every day.

COLLINS: Thank you.

I want to turn to the issue of cyber threats and cyber security, which has been an obsession of mine for many years, since Joe Lieberman and I tried to bring a cyber security bill to the floor in 2012 only to have it filibustered. I believe that the recent focus on the cyber intrusions in the campaigns has greatly increased the public's awareness of this problem. But the fact is that the cyber intrusions go far beyond the political space, troubling and appalling though that is. There was a 2015 memo by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense that said that the Department of Defense is subjected -- this was a public memo -- is subjected to 100,000 attempted cyberattacks each day. Now, those are attempts. Not all of them go through. They're from nation states, they're from terrorist groups, they're from hackers, they're from international criminal gangs, you name it. That's three million per month. How would you assess our preparedness in the cyber domain?

[11:35:57] POMPEO: Senator, we've got lots of work to do, may be the best way to summarize that. Not only the government that is protecting our systems, and we've talked a lot the last few days about systems that belong to private entities, political private entities, but I know you've done a great deal of work in making sure that the national infrastructure, including its private sector infrastructure, has the capacity to do what it needs to keep not only business issues in the place that they need to be. A lot of these folks are subcontractors to the United States government as well, private companies that have important information about American national security activities. And so, we have an awful lot of work to do. There's no reason to expect that this threat is going to diminish. That will take a whole of government effort to do that, shared by the executive branch and the legislative branch, to achieve better cyber security for national infrastructure as well.

COLLINS: Let me very quickly express two concerns about Iran. One, there are increasing reports that Iran is using its civilian air fleet for illicit purposes, including the transfer of arms to terrorist groups. If confirmed, would you make a priority to provide an assessment to Congress of whether or not Iran is using its civilian air fleet for such purposes?

POMPEO: Senator, I will. I'm happy to share with you, too -- I've read about this, too, and i'm happy to share with you in closed session the knowledge that I have. It concerns me greatly, the activities of Iran Air and Mahan Air that are taking place today in Iran.

COLLINS: Finally, do you believe that the monitoring and verification regime in our agreement with Iran, the JCPOA, as currently constructed, is adequate to ensure that Iran is fully complying with the agreement? Do you think that the IAEA has sufficient access to detect any Iranian cheating?

POMPEO: Senator, the Iranians are professionals at cheating. And so, while I think we have a very sound inspection regime, I have to tell you, I worry about the fact of the things that we do not know we do not know. So, you have my commitment that I will continue to improve and enhance our capacity to understand that and do everything I can to diminish the risk that, in fact, we are missing something.

COLLINS: Thank you.

BURR: Senator Heinrich?

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH, (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you, Chairman.

And thank you, Congressman Pompeo, for taking the time to sit down with me earlier this week and for your willingness to answer the pre- hearing questions that a number of us submitted to you.

I hope your responsiveness to committee members continues should you be confirmed. That was certainly the tone you set with me in the office, and I appreciate that.

As I told you in our conversation, I've had serious concerns over the last few years that that has not always been the lay of the land between the director and this committee. I understand that the DCIA has a mandate to be fully supportive of the men and women who work there. That is critical. However, I also hope that when, if you are lucky enough to fill that very important position, that we will have a new approach of being open in hearings and with regard to congressional oversight.

I want to start on an issue that was central in some of the prehearing questions and in our conversation. You indicated that you would seek the counsel of experts at the CIA to determine whether adhering to the Army field manual and conducting interrogation was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence. You've been supportive of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the past, saying back in December of 2014, that President Obama has continually refused to take the war on Islamic terrorism seriously, and cited ending our interrogation program in 2009, as an example. Can you commit to this committee that, under current law, which limits interrogation to the Army field manual, that you will comply with that law and that the CIA is out of the enhanced interrogation business?

[11:40:33] POMPEO: Yes. You have my full commitment to that, Senator Heinrich.

HEINRICH: Thank you.

Let me jump to another issue. Senator Wyden had touched on this earlier but I want to follow up a little bit. As the director and as somebody who sat on the House Intelligence Committee over the last couple of years, you're very familiar with the changes in law that have been made under current law, the USA Freedom Act that was passed recently. What changes to that law would you encourage the administration to seek, if any?

POMPEO: Senator, I currently have no intention of seeking such changes. But as I think we discussed when we met, I am certain, if I am confirmed, I'll learn a great deal about the program and I'll develop a deeper understanding and hear lots of views inside the agency. And I will, I'll look to experts there and experts outside. And if, in fact, I conclude there need to be changes to the USA Freedom Act to protect America, I'll bring them to you and have the full expectation that you all will consider them fairly as well.

HEINRICH: I know we were recently briefed on the - basically, the status of being able to collect important information under that law. I would assume that there was probably a similar briefing on the House side. Were you a part of that? And do you feel like at least with what you know today that the surveillance that needs to be done is happening under that structure, protecting innocent Americans from unnecessary intrusion?

POMPEO: Senator, I have not had a chance to have a complete briefing on that. But I can say that I have not heard anything to suggest that there is a need for change today.

HEINRICH: Jumping once again over to the JCPOA, I know that the day before you were nominated to be the director, you said that you look forward to, quote, "rolling back the Iran deal." How would you characterize your position on that today? And would you stand by that statement?

POMPEO: Senator, just so the record can reflect that, that communication was approved before I was aware that I was going to be the nominee to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Having said that, look, I spoke to this a great deal. It was my view that the JCPOA was a mistake for American national security. I believed that. But it's also the case that, after that, I came to have the understanding that that was the arrangement this president thought was in the best interests of America. And I worked to make sure that it was fully implemented. And now, if i'm confirmed, I'll continue to do that in my role as the director of the CIA. I will endeavor to provide straight information to you all about the progress the JCPOA has made toward reducing the threat from Iranian nuclear activity and share with you when that's not happening as well.

HEINRICH: Thank you, Congressman.

BURR: Senator Blunt?

SEN. ROY BLUNT, (R), MISSOURI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Congressman, I know we were all pleased we had a chance to visit with you privately. You quickly reached out to member of this committee and have met with us and we'll have a chance to visit later today in a classified setting.

I want to go back a little bit to your discussion with Senator Wyden. One of your last comments you made there was that you gave ground to no one in -- respecting America's privacy. And if you want to give any examples of that in your House career, that would be fine. But as I understood what I thought was that discussion about a more-expanded collection effort, it was collecting things that people had chosen to no longer keep private, collecting things on social media that people had put out there. And I believe, at some point, you mentioned -- somebody was talking about an activity that could be terrorist or other related, that the director of the CIA should have some interest in that. And am I right that you see a different privacy standard if someone is trying to maintain their privacy as opposed to someone who is putting information out there that anyone can see?


BURR: Mike, hit your button.

[11:45:10] POMPEO: Yes, sir.

I may not have added there, look, the primary responsibility for that here in the United States is not the Central Intelligence Agency. It would be other agencies inside the federal government. So, in the first instance, the focus of the Central Intelligence Agency is foreign intelligence collection. Make no mistake about that.

But, yes, I was referring to things that were in the public space, that the U.S. government ought to make sure that we understood fully, and that we didn't leave publicly available information off of things that we were using to prevent all kinds of bad and terrorist activity here in the United States.

As a member of Congress, I voted repeatedly on pieces of legislation that were important for the protection of American privacy. It's something that, if you come from south central Kansas, as people know -- you know that, being from Missouri -- people are deeply cognizant of the need for a space for themselves to live away from the government. It's something that I hold dear and treasure myself as well.

BLUNT: The -- on the issue of encryption, I, for some time, on this committee, at even public hearings, and specifically at public hearings, have had both the director of the FBI and NSA, I can recall both of them saying encryption is the best thing out there and, maybe, in some cases, the worst thing out there. But there seems to be a real sense that encryption is more often a cyber protection than something that we should create a way around. And what's your view of encryption in an ongoing way, and what the government could or should do to try to permeate encryption that's already out there in equipment?

POMPEO: Senator, I always start on this topic reminded of my role as director of the CIA is first to comply with the law. As you all develop policies around encryption, you have my assurance that I'll always direct the people that work for me to comply with the law with respect to private communications.

Second, I think we need to acknowledge that encryption is out there, and that not all encryption takes place here in the United States. So, the rules and policies we put in place here in America are things that the intelligence community is going to have to figure out a way to perform its function knowing that that encryption will continue to be out there.

Finally, we spend a lot of time talking about how we handle encrypted devices for Americans and for encryption here in the United States. My effort will be to understand it more fully, to make sure that I understand its impact on my role to keep America safe, and to work alongside you to develop a set of policies that achieve that goal while still achieving all the other goals that we have here in America.

BLUNT: And spending some time in House Intelligence, seeing the relationship between the DNI and the CIA, what do you think you can do to advance the ability of the DNI to do their originally stated job of coordinating information, being sure everybody has access to the information that's out there in a better way than we have currently seen?

POMPEO: So the statute is pretty clear about our respective roles and responsibilities. I have now had a chance to read that a couple of times since my nomination. I'm excited about Senator Coats' nomination. If he's confirmed, I look forward to working alongside with him.

I've also read the histories. I know there have been conflicts before between the director of National Intelligence and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In my role as a small business owner, I saw that, too. You would have different people with different roles and you would see conflict. My effort was, every day, to work hard to make sure that we were additive, that we each found our own space, that we worked across those borders, not only individually but that we directed that our organizations would accomplish that as well. So, it's not just the two senior officials, I think, that have had conflict before. We need to make sure our organizations each understand there is a place for the director of National Intelligence to ensure there is good communication among the dozen-plus intelligence agencies, and that information is shared at a time and fashion, and that the director of the CIA has his plate fully performing his primary functions as well.

BLUNT: Thank you.

Thank you, Chairman.

BURR: Senator King?

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I), MAINE: Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Congressman Pompeo, welcome.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator King.

[11:49:46] KING: And I always, as we discussed, I believe an outside view in an agency that tends to be -- not tends to be, but is secretive is an important point of view. So I appreciate your willingness to serve.

The larger question, the great foreign policy mistakes of my lifetime, Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs and Iraq, all were based in one way or another on bad intelligence or, more accurately, intelligence that was tailored to fit the demands of the policymakers. You can't read the history of those decisions without coming to that conclusion. There is no more intimidating spot on the face of this earth than the Oval Office.

Will you commit to giving the commander-in-chief, the president, unpleasant news that may be inconsistent with his policy preferences, based upon the best intelligence that the CIA can develop?

POMPEO: Senator, you have my commitment. And while i, today, am going to avoid talking about conversations that the president and I had with as much energy and effort as I can, I can tell you that I have assured the president-elect that I'll do that as well. I have shared with him that my role is central to him performing his function, and important and critical only when I perform my function in that way. When I take the great work that these men and women put their lives at risk to develop and I deliver that to every policymaker in a way that is straight up and forward. And I commit to doing that with you and with the president-elect.

KING: If he doesn't say at some point, "Mike, i'm disappointed in you, is that the best you can do, you've failed?"


The president-elect's national security adviser, General Flynn, has been quoted as saying, "The CIA has become a very political organization." In your written response to our questions, you said there is a sense of a more politicized intelligence environment. That's sort of like people are saying there's a more politicized intelligence environment. What do you mean by it? Is there a sense of that? Do you agree with General Flynn, or do you not?

POMPEO: So I have had a chance as an overseer to observe the Central Intelligence Agencies, and I -- when I've had a chance to sit with them, I have watched them fight through fire to get the real facts. I have seen, however -- I've seen political actors from all stripes attempt to try and shake that. I don't mean in hard ways. There's no demand.


KING: I'm not talking about outside political actors. I'm talking -- this allegation is that the agency itself has become politicized. Do you believe that?

POMPEO: My experience is that I have not seen that.

KING: I appreciate that.

There are unsubstantiated media reports that there were contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians. If confirmed, will you commit to exploring those questions? And if you find there is validity to those allegations, refer the information that you discovered to the FBI?

POMPEO: I want to make clear that I share your view that these are unsubstantiated allegations.

KING: I emphasized that.

POMPEO: I understand. I want to make sure that --

KING: These are very serious allegations.

POMPEO: Look, there are a number of very serious things that have taken place. The leaks that occurred, as well, I consider to be intensely serious, too. And I think Director Clapper's statement from last night, or this morning, about his concern about these leaks is worthy as well.

But to your question, more directly, I promise I'll pursue the facts wherever they take us. The Central Intelligence Agency has that as one of its singular functions. And you have my commitment that I'll do that with respect to this issue and each and every other issue as well.

KING: Thank you.

On July 24, 2016, you sent the following Twitter, quote, "Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down. Busted, 19,252 e-mails from DNC leaked by WikiLeaks."

Do you think WikiLeaks is a reliable source of information?

POMPEO: I do not. KING: And the fact that you used the word "proof," "need proof," that

would indicate that you did think it was a credible source of information.

POMPEO: Senator King, I have never believed that WikiLeaks was a credible source of information.

KING: Well, how do you explain your Twitter?

POMPEO: I don't have to --


KING: You're tweet, sorry. I don't want to be accused of the wrong term.

POMPEO: I appreciate that. i'd have to go back and take a look at that, Senator. But I can assure you, I have some deep understanding of WikiLeaks, and I have never viewed it as a credible source of information for the United States or for anyone else.

KING: I appreciate that.

Thank you. And I appreciate your candor here today. And look forward to further discussions. And I just hope that you will hold on to the commitment that you've made today, because it's not going to be easy. But your primary role is to speak truth to the highest level of power in this country. I appreciate, again, your willingness to serve.

POMPEO: Thank you very much, Senator King.

BURR: With the indulgence of all members, I made a promise to all members on the committee that, were they in other confirmation hearings, and they showed up, I would show them preferential treatment on recognition.

And if there's no objection, I would like to recognize Senator McCain for five minutes of questions.

[11:55:11] SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: I thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I apologize. I'm chairing the committee for a hearing on General Mattis.

First of all, i'm here to support Congressman Pompeo's nomination. Despite -- he has overcome a very poor education, and he's been able to surmount that handicap, which has been a burden for him throughout his career.

I just want to -- as you know, we conducted -- we passed legislation that only -- treatment of prisoners would only be in accordance with the Army field manual. And that law was passed. The vote was 93-7 in the United States Senate on that particular amendment. Will you continue to support that and enforce that law?

POMPEO: Senator McCain, I voted for that, and I will.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

And will you -- if you have any recommendations you have for changing the Army field manual or other roles governing interrogation, you'll share those with Congress?

POMPEO: Yes, sir.

MCCAIN: And I don't want to take the time in the committee but, obviously, the Russians have been hacking. There's no doubt about that, obviously. And whether they intended or -- and what their intentions were, whether they actually succeeded or not, there is certainly no evidence.

What do you think it's going to take to deter Vladimir Putin's continued interference, not just in our elections but attempts to have access to our most-sensitive classified materials, secrets? It's a long, long list of offenses in cyber that Vladimir Putin and the Russians have, basically, compromised our national security. What do you think it takes to deter him?

POMPEO: I don't know that I can answer that question comprehensively today. But I can tell you it is going to require a robust American response, a response that is a security related response that we have to get better at defending against these, and then a response that holds actors accountable who commit these kinds of actions against the United States of America. And the form, the nature, the depth, the severity of those responses will be decisions of policymakers that will be beyond me as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But I do view my role there as central in providing you with a deep understanding of what's taken place, how that took place, and a set of options surrounding the kinds of things in the intelligence world, at least, one might take action on so that we can successfully push back against it.

MCCAIN: Wouldn't the first step to be to establish a policy as to how we treat cyberattacks and, therefore, from which we could develop a strategy? And right now, we have no policy.

POMPEO: Senator, I would agree with that. It is very important that America, all of government, develop a policy with respect to this. And i, if confirmed, promise I'll work alongside you to help in developing such a policy with good intelligence.

MCCAIN: Right now, we are treating these attacks on a case-by-case basis, which is not a productive, nor, I believe, enterprise that would lead to success. Do you --

POMPEO: I would agree with that, Senator.

MCCAIN: Do we have's capabilities, in your view, to adequately respond to cyberattacks? I'm talking about the capabilities now, not the policy.

POMPEO: Senator, I want to be a little careful in open session talking about the full scope of American capabilities. But this is an amazing nation with incredibly smart people. And if given a policy director to achieve the objective you're describing, I am confident that America can do that.

MCCAIN: I thank the chairman and the indulgence of the committee.

And, Congressman, i'm sure you'll do an outstanding job. We look forward to working with you.

BURR: Senator Lankford?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mike, it's great to see you. We -- you and I served together in the House. I saw up close and personal the tenacity of your work, how seriously you took the task there, that you engaged immediately in policy issues, and your passion was to be able to come and help. And that still remains today.

Your greatest asset is, no doubt, Susan and your tremendous relationship, and your family. And I know that will be a great asset to the nation as well. And so, thank you for stepping up to do this.

Your whole life changed a month ago, when you accepted the possibility of a nomination for this. So, thanks for stepping up and doing it.

Let me ask about the role of the CIA and its face and the direction that it looks.