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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Pompeo, Mike

  • CIA Director
  • Member, House of Republicans (R-KS), 2011-2016

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Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011, serves as CIA director in the Donald Trump administration. He is known for his vocal criticism of the Iran nuclear deal, anti-Islam rhetoric, promotion of broad government surveillance powers, politicization of the Benghazi tragedy, and extremist social views, including opposing abortion in cases of of rape and incest.[1] Commentators have noted how Pompeo’s Religious Right outlook has led him to develop close associations with anti-Islam zealots like the Center for Security Policy‘s Frank Gaffney, who once called Pompeo “one of the most intelligent men I know in public life.”

Since becoming CIA chief, Pompeo has stepped up pressure on Iran. Notably, after the surprise Trump administration missile strike on Syria in April 2017, Pompeo warned that the strike was also a signal to Iran concerning its adherence to the agreement on its nuclear program (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). He said, “We should all be mindful, given what took place in Syria, and go back and read that JCPOA when it talks about declared facilities and undeclared facilities and how much access [inspectors] will have to each of those two very distinct groups.” Several months later, neoconservative pundits like Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies gushed that “Pompeo is putting the agency on an aggressive footing against [the Iranian regime’s terrorist] global networks with the development of a more muscular covert action program.”

An August 2017 New York Times feature about Pompeo painted him as one of President Trump’s “favorite cabinet members.” On the other hand, according to the Times, the very things “that have endeared Mr. Pompeo to the president — his hawkish politics and eagerness to speak his mind — have been met with a more mixed reception at the C.I.A. The agency sees its role as delivering hard truths that are unvarnished by political preferences, and there are concerns in the intelligence community that Mr. Pompeo’s partisan instincts color his views of contentious issues, such as Russia’s interference in the election or Iran’s nuclear program.” Commented Paul Pillar, “When analysts are preparing their assessments, they can’t blot out of their mind their awareness of what will be welcome and what will be not welcome. There is the hazard of a bias creeping in, even subconsciously.”

CIA Nomination

Trump nominated Pompeo as director of the CIA shortly after his victory in the November 2016 presidential election. Reports indicated that one of the reasons he was chosen over other candidates was because of his fierce condemnation of Hillary Clinton, which as one observer wrote “is hardly the sort of criterion that makes for good intelligence.”[2] Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a Middle East hawk and one-time Trump critic, has called Pompeo a “serious man.”[3] However, many foreign policy experts are alarmed by Pompeo’s lack of experience and antagonistic views on Iran.[4]

During his initial Senate confirmation hearings in early January 2017, Pompeo reaffirmed his hawkish views on Iran, and also staked out a hardline on Russia, appearing to differ from Trump. He argued that Russia was threatening Europe and the Ukraine and “doing nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat” of the Islamic State.

One noted foreign policy writer compared Pompeo’s nomination to that of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s controversial pick as National Security Adviser. Paul Pillar wrote in the National Interest, “Although perhaps not as awful an appointment as Flynn, the choice of Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency raises some of the same issues of an ideological echo chamber and whether an ill-informed president with meager knowledge of foreign relations will get the information and analysis he so badly needs. Pompeo is an ideologue in the partisan sense. His main claim to fame is as one of the lead attack dogs politicizing the tragedy at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, for the purpose of cutting down Hillary Clinton.”[5]

Iran Hawk

Like other Trump appointees, Pompeo has been a vocal critic of the historic 2015 Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), which limits Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons in return for some sanctions relief. He argues that the deal empowers “an Iranian regime that is intent on destroying America.” The day before his CIA nomination he tweeted, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” Wrote Pillar, “It is hard to picture how someone so committed to such a partisan goal could be counted on to present objectively, as an intelligence chief, all the pertinent information and analysis about what is happening under the nuclear agreement and what the consequences would be if the United States withdrew from it.” This view contrasts sharply with that of Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s pick to run the Pentagon, who although critical of the Iran agreement argues that the United Stets cannot unilaterally walk away from it.

Pompeo’s confrontational approach to Iran has included calling for preemptive bombing of Iranian nuclear sites, introducing legislation that would block the U.S. purchase of heavy water from Tehran, requesting a visa from Iran to “monitor” its elections, and joining neoconservative Sen. Tom Cotton in misleading claiming that there were “secret side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency that the Obama administration kept from the public to get the Iran deal through.

Track Record

Pompeo has defended broad government surveillance and voted to oppose congressional controls on NSA and CIA data collection of U.S. citizens. He wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.”

Pompeo has served on major congressional committees, including the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees intelligence-gathering efforts. In 2014, Pompeo was also appointed to the House Select Benghazi Committee.

A military veteran who graduated from West Point, Pompeo’s House of Representatives biography reports that “he served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the Fourth Infantry Division. After leaving active duty, [he] graduated from Harvard Law School having been an editor of the Harvard Law Review. [He] later returned to his mother’s family roots in South Central Kansas and founded Thayer Aerospace, where he served as CEO for more than a decade providing components for commercial and military aircraft. He then became President of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment manufacturing, distribution, and service company.”


[1] On The Issues, Mike Pompeo, http://www.ontheissues.org/House/Mike_Pompeo.htm#Foreign_Policy

[2] “Ideology is Supplanting Intelligence,” Lobelog, November 22, 2016, https://lobelog.com/ideology-is-supplanting-intelligence/

[3] Bloomberg, “Trump Taps Ardent Benghazi Critic Pompeo as Director of CIA,” 18 November 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-11-18/trump-said-to-select-kansas-congressman-pompeo-as-cia-director

[4] Jennifer William, “Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for CIA director, could take the agency back to its darkest days,” Vox, Novebmer 21, 2016, http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/18/13676756/mike-pompeo-trump-pick-cia-director; Paul Pillar, “Ideology is Supplanting Intelligence,” National Interest, November 22, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/ideology-supplanting-intelligence-18479?page=2

[5] Paul Pillar, “Ideology is Supplanting Intelligence,” National Interest, November 22, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/ideology-supplanting-intelligence-18479?page=2

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Pompeo, Mike Résumé


CIA: Director
Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-KS): 2011-2016


Thayer Aerospace: Founder
Sentry International: Former President


West Point
Harvard Law School


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

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