01.23.17

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On the Nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Director of the CIA

Tonight, the Senate will vote on the President’s nominee to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  As I said on Friday, I do not believe the Senate should rush to confirm such a critical position, without the opportunity for debate or discussion.  We are having that debate today, and that is why on Friday, I supported a motion to proceed to this nomination.

Our intelligence agencies have an enormous task ahead.  The challenges they face range from state-sponsored information warfare to countering violent extremists around the world.  Among those who will lead these efforts will be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  The importance of the CIA cannot be overstated, and now, perhaps more than ever, we need a Director who will manage the agency with the full confidence of the American people.  This confidence is based not only on a future Director’s ability to comprehend security challenges, but on his or her ability to safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans and to uphold and advance United States leadership in protecting human rights. 

I have serious concerns with President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA.  Congressman Pompeo has called for the re-establishment of the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, and has even argued that the intelligence community should combine that metadata “with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.”  He went on to say that “[l]egal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.”  But Congress outright rejected the bulk collection of Americans’ records when it passed the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 on an overwhelming bipartisan basis – the very program that Congressman Pompeo said that he wants to bring back.

During his testimony last week, Congressman Pompeo attempted to diffuse this and other questions about his more alarming positions by affirming his appreciation of the supremacy of law. It sounded, to me, like the tried and true confirmation conversion.  I appreciate that he testified that he understands the responsibility of a Director to uphold the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress.  But I remain deeply concerned that he advocated for such dangerous measures in the first place. And I am concerned that he will push to remove “legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance” – just as he said last year.

We face grave threats from around the world, whether from Russia, from ISIS, or other adversaries.  The director of the CIA must be trusted by all Americans to protect us from these threats, but also to protect our nation’s core values.  I don’t question Congressman Pompeo’s loyalty to our nation.  I do question his stated beliefs that immediate security concerns can be used as a justification for eroding the fundamental rights of Americans. For these reasons, I cannot support Congressman Pompeo’s nomination.

VIDEO of Leahy’s remarks is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCBipmdLWyc&feature=youtu.be 

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