WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, voted against the confirmation of U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
During a speech on the Senate Floor before the vote, Heinrich said, "Congressman Pompeo has a long legislative and rhetorical history on surveillance, torture, and other issues that I believe we simply cannot overlook in considering his nomination."
Heinrich pressed Pompeo during his confirmation hearing last week on his position on government surveillance and protecting the privacy rights of Americans, as well as his views on the use of torture and rolling back the Iran nuclear agreement. Heinrich fought hard for passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which ended the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk metadata collection program that allowed the government to collect billions of Americans' private phone call records while suspecting them of no wrongdoing.
Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Thank you M. President, and thanks to my colleague Senator Wyden for leading this important discussion.
I joined the Senate Intelligence Committee four years ago; just a few short months before the public release of thousands of classified documents forced our country to have a debate over the reach and scope of America's surveillance programs.
That debate has formed the backdrop for national security policy decisions ever since.
I am proud of the positive steps we've made toward reclaiming our civil liberties, while still giving our intelligence and law enforcement communities the tools they need to anticipate threats, track terrorists, and keep America safe.
It is because of Congressman Pompeo's opposition to those important reforms that I rise today to oppose his nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Congressman Pompeo has a long legislative and rhetorical history on surveillance, torture, and other issues that I believe we simply cannot overlook in considering his nomination.
In our conversations, in answers to written questions, and during his confirmation hearing, Congressman Pompeo has often said the right thing, or tried to give answers that - on their face - give the impression that he has changed his position on these issues.
But we need to carefully review the Congressman's votes and public statements to be sure that he understands the importance of protecting Americans' constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and meeting the needs of our national security.
I was proud to help lead the effort to pass the USA FREEDOM Act in 2015 to finally end the government's dragnet collection of law-abiding Americans' personal information and provide the intelligence community with an updated legal framework that ensures they have the tools they need to focus on the records of actual terrorists, while protecting the privacy of Americans.
Although the Congressman voted to support the USA FREEDOM Act in 2015, within a year, he quickly backtracked, writing a column for the National Review that said: "Those who today suggest that the USA FREEDOM Act, which gutted the National Security Agency's (NSA) metadata program, enables the intelligence community to better prevent and investigate threats against the U.S. are lying. I use that word intentionally...."
A few weeks later, Congressman Pompeo, in the Wall Street Journal, wrote: "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."
Let me read that one more time: "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."
Now let's unpack that sentence.
First, when asked by Senator Wyden and I to clarify what metadata he believes should be collected, Congressman Pompeo made clear that he was referring to a rollback of the USA FREEDOM Act, and a return to the warrantless, and unnecessary collection of billions of communications records from millions of innocent Americans not suspected of any crime.
Shortly after Congressman Pompeo's Wall Street Journal column was published, the NSA's General Counsel, wrote in a column in Lawfare that: "Largely overlooked in the debate that has ensued ... is the fact that under the new arrangement, our national security professionals will have access to a greater volume of call records subject to query in a way that is consistent with our regard for civil liberties."
But it's the second part the Congressman's position that gives me far more concern. What does he mean by calling for the collection of "publicly available financial and lifestyle information" and placing it into a "comprehensive, searchable database"?
When asked to clarify his proposal, Congressman Pompeo declined.
However, it's clear from the context of both his columns and his public statements that he believes that the U.S. government ought to be collecting dramatically more private information from innocent Americans who are not under investigation for any crime.
Let me be clear. The federal government has no business collecting "lifestyle information" on its own citizens. And innocent Americans should expect that their private financial data is just that...private.
This all flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment.
On torture, Congressman Pompeo's record is also clear: he supports it.
Congressman Pompeo thinks it was a mistake to stop the "enhanced interrogation" program. He issued a personal attack against then-Committee Chairman Feinstein when the Committee released its report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
While he acknowledges that CIA interrogation techniques are currently limited to those contained in the Army Field Manual, Congressman Pompeo said to our committee that he will: "consult with experts at the Agency and at other organizations in the U.S. government on whether the Army Field Manual uniform application is an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country or whether any rewrite of the Army Field Manual is needed."
One could easily infer that the Congressman would ask the CIA officers who participated in the torture program whether they believe the techniques contained in the Army Field Manual are sufficient.
If he is told they're not, he has left open the option of re-writing the Army Field Manual. This is problematic for a number of reasons, and should be of deep concern to my colleagues.
Finally, the day before his nomination was announced, Congressman Pompeo tweeted that he was looking forward to "rolling back" the Iran nuclear agreement, which ended each and every pathway for Iran to develop a weaponized nuclear device, including a covert path.
When I asked him about this in our hearing, Congressman Pompeo said: "That communications was approved before I was aware that I was going to be the nominee to the Central Intelligence Agency."
The Congressman went on to say that in his view, the Iran nuclear agreement was a "mistake for American national security," but that as CIA Director he would "work to make sure it is fully implemented and will endeavor to provide straight information" about the progress made in reducing Iran's nuclear capability.
However, given his deep antipathy toward the Iran Agreement, I have serious concerns about his ability to be objective on this issue, which is critical to the stability of the Middle East and to our efforts to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.
Having said all of this, if the Congressman is confirmed, I hope he will fulfill one of his commitments to me: to improve the communications and relationship between the oversight committees in Congress and the CIA.
It is my hope that a CIA Director coming from outside the agency will give greater weight to informing the Intelligence Committee of the CIA's activities than his immediate predecessor has.
Congressman Pompeo, if confirmed, will have the opportunity to recalibrate this relationship, and if given the chance, I hope that he seizes that opportunity.
Thank you M. President, and I yield back my time.