January 23, 2017

Van Hollen Statement in Opposition to Confirmation of Mike Pompeo

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen submitted the following statement to the congressional record on the vote to confirm Congressman Mike Pompeo to be Director of the CIA:

"Mr. President, President Trump has repeatedly called into question the integrity and professionalism of the brave men and women in our Intelligence Community. In addition, throughout the campaign, his statements revealed a dangerous propensity to ignore important principles of civil and religious liberty.

"Under these circumstances, it is especially important that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency be an individual who will implement the Agency's vital national security responsibilities in a manner consistent with our Constitution and the rule of law. The head of the CIA must ensure that the men and women of the Agency are not pressured by the President - or anyone else - to violate important American values and principles.

"Congressman Mike Pompeo has impressive credentials and, should he be confirmed, I pledge to work with him to support the national security missions of the CIA. However, his positions on spying on Americans, the use of torture, and religious minorities cause me to question this nomination.

"Modern nations must have intelligence agencies to help keep us safe. Thus, in the 1947 National Security Act, Congress created the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA provides the President and senior policymakers with vital national security intelligence.

"But the CIA and other United States intelligence agencies must work within our Constitution. By design, the CIA has no law enforcement role. And the law focuses the CIA on overseas intelligence gathering, limiting what it can do here in the United States.

"Our Constitution limits how much intelligence agencies and Government generally can intrude into the lives of Americans. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution provides: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." To conduct searches, the Constitution requires the Government to have probable cause and get a warrant. Congress passed and the States ratified the Fourth Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights, in response to the abuse of general search warrants issued by the British in pre-Revolutionary America.

"Thus, in 2015, a Federal judge ruled that the National Security Agency's program of systematically collecting Americans' domestic phone records likely violated the Constitution. And also in 2015, Congress enacted the USA Freedom Act in large part to limit that program. The USA Freedom Act represented real progress and a departure from the untenable situation before the law. It ensured that the intelligence community and law enforcement have the necessary tools that they need to protect our Nation, but it does so in a manner that is consistent with the fundamental principles in our Constitution.

"Congressman Pompeo, however, has been an ardent proponent of the data collection that the Federal judge ruled likely unconstitutional. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Mr. Pompeo wrote that Congress should reestablish the collection of metadata and also combine it "with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database." And in 2015, Congressman Pompeo introduced the so-called "Liberty Through Strength Act II," which would have rolled back the reforms of the USA Freedom Act.

"Indeed, Mr. Pompeo apparently has a troubling bias against privacy. Mr. Pompeo wrote in the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that "the use of strong encryption in personal communications may itself be a red flag."

"I am also deeply concerned about Congressman Pompeo's position on torture. After release of the 2014 Senate torture report, Mr. Pompeo said, "These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots. The programs being used were within the law, within the Constitution." If Mr. Pompeo's conception of the law and the Constitution would allow the use of the torture that the 2014 report documented, then I am concerned that he reads our Constitution's protections too narrowly. If confirmed, Mr. Pompeo's support for such torture techniques as described in the 2014 Senate torture report could once again harm America's reputation abroad and endanger American troops whom our enemies might capture.

"I am also concerned that Mr. Pompeo has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Guantanamo Bay prison. When MSNBC's Craig Melvin asked Mr. Pompeo in 2013 about a hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison, Mr. Pompeo said, "The last thing to say about these folks who are supposedly hunger strikers is that they look to me like a lot of them had put on weight." And last year, Mr. Pompeo said, "The detainees at GTMO are treated exceptionally well - so well that some have even declined to be resettled, instead choosing to stay at GTMO."

"In fact, the Guantanamo Bay prison is a blot on America's reputation in the world. As President Obama has said, "Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law." If confirmed, Mr. Pompeo's support for the prison would harm American interests in the world.

"Mr. Pompeo has also cast aspersion on Muslims generally. In a 2013 statement on the House floor, Congressman Pompeo said:

'When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith, and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith. Instead of responding, their silence has made most Islamic leaders across America complicit in these acts . . . . But the silence in the face of extremism coming from the best funded Islamic advocacy organizations and many mosques across America is absolutely deafening. It casts doubt upon the commitment to peace by adherents by the Muslim faith.'

"It is unacceptable to smear all Muslims based on the actions of radical extremists who seek to hijack the name of Islam for their evil purposes. That kind of demagoguery has no place in our county.

"Placing someone who maligns all Muslims in charge of the CIA would be a propaganda boon to enemies who seek to portray America's foreign policy as a war against Islam. And the expression of such views by a senior Government official could discourage Muslim Americans from working with law enforcement here at home.

"Mr. President, run properly, the Central Intelligence Agency makes an important contribution to keeping America safe. But run poorly, the CIA can embarrass the Nation in the world and ultimately endanger our troops, our diplomats, and Americans abroad.

"It is thus important that the person who heads the CIA be a person who respects the Constitution and understands the limits that the Constitution and statutes place on the agency's role. While I hope he will prove me wrong, Mr. Pompeo's statements lead me to conclude that he is not the right person for this job."