“… the American people deserve a clear explanation of what their Central Intelligence Agency does on their behalf…. we are an organization committed to uncovering the truth and getting it right…. And sure—we also admit to making mistakes…. But it is always our intention—and duty—to get it right. And that is one of the many reasons why we at CIA find the celebration of entities like WikiLeaks to be both perplexing and deeply troubling.”
— CIA Director Mike Pompeo, April 13, 2017
While the snippets above provide a reasonable summary of the substance of Mike Pompeo’s first speech as head of the CIA, they don’t begin to capture the full demagoguery of the CIA head’s rambling 3700-word blather of ad hominem attacks, false claims, hyperbolic rhetoric, irrelevancies, straw man arguments, and political deflections. In other words, Pompeo made it clear that he has little regard for truth, for personal decency, or for the Constitutional protections for free speech or for the free exercise of religion. It was an altogether chilling debut for a spy agency head in a country that still imagines itself enjoying some basic freedoms.
Pompeo started with an anecdotal biography of former CIA agent Philip Agee, without mentioning that Agee resigned from the CIA in 1968 and died in 2008. Nor did Pompeo mention that Agee resigned, despite CIA entreaties to stay, because Agee could no longer countenance the Agency’s support for brutal dictatorships across Latin America. Instead of confronting the substance of Agee’s life and actions, Pompeo reiterated the official CIA demonization of the man who founded the anti-CIA magazine Counterspy and revealed many CIA secrets. As the CIA has done for decades, Pompeo blamed Agee for the assassination of CIA agent Richard Welch in Greece in 1975. Barbara Bush made this same claim in her 1994 memoir. After Agee sued her for libel, the claim was removed from the paperback edition.
As a lawyer who knows he can’t libel the dead, Pompeo is unmitigatedly dishonest in his portrait of Agee, concluding it with: “Meanwhile, Agee propped up his dwindling celebrity with an occasional stunt, including a Playboy interview. He eventually settled down as the privileged guest of an authoritarian regime.” That was a reference to Cuba, where Agee died, but until the very end of his life he also spent time in Germany, his wife’s home country. Pompeo utterly fails to meet his duty to get it right. He comes nowhere near the truth, that Agee’s life represents the struggle faced by a man of conscience when he realizes the agency he works for also commits horrendous crimes, not just mistakes. An honest historian would put this account of a man’s life within the context of the US Senate’s 1975 Church Committee, which documented a number of CIA crimes and led, for awhile at least, to significant CIA reform.
Having framed his talk with a false version of Philip Agee, Pompeo spent the rest of it mixing CIA boilerplate promotional material with his main purpose, attacking WikiLeaks on the basis of a big lie:
WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information. And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations. It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.
Pompeo offers no analysis or evidentiary support for these assertions. There is no public evidence that WikiLeaks is anything like an intelligence service in purpose, structure, or functioning. According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, WikiLeaks has the same mission as the Washington Post or New York Times: “to publish newsworthy content. Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media.” The Times famously did that very thing in 1971 when it released the Pentagon Papers, which affirmed the disastrous dishonesty that produced the Vietnam War.
The record of WikiLeaks is the opposite of most any intelligence service, certainly of the CIA. WikiLeaks is available as a resource for people to publish government secrets. WikiLeaks vets the material it is offered and, so far, has never had to make a retraction. Everything WikiLeaks has offered is true. The CIA lies all the time, although not everything it says is false. What Pompeo says about Chelsea Manning looks like a bald-faced lie. But he needs that lie to undercut the reality that Manning was a soldier with a conscience who objected to US random slaughters of Iraqi civilians, men, women, children, journalists.
Pompeo’s reference to “state actors like Russia” is shamelessly hilarious. The best known WikiLeaks project allegedly involving Russia is the massive release of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the 2016 campaign. These were significantly damaging to Hillary Clinton, and Mike Pompeo at the time was saying things like this:
Well, it’s classic Clinton, right? When you find out you got a problem, you deflect, you deny, you create a contretemps where there really is none. Frankly, it’s pretty clear who invited the Russians to do damage to America, and it was Hillary Clinton. She put classified information on a private server, inviting the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, all to have access to it. I hope they didn’t get it, but even the former director of the CIA said he thinks they probably did. So, the person who’s put American national security risk isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Hillary Clinton.
So in July 2016, WikiLeaks was innocent, and Russia was irrelevant? Can you say find the truth and get it right? Can you say serial hypocrite? Or can you say, along with candidate Trump last October, “This just came out. Wikileaks. I love WikiLeaks”?
At the time of Pompeo’s speech, mainstream media paid more attention to the so-called “mother of all bombs” dropped on Afghanistan than they did to this much more powerful political bombshell dropped on the US. Recently some mainstream media have been taking another look, as in this headline from Newsweek: “CIA CHIEF POMPEO TAKES AIM AT THE FREE PRESS.”
What can and should CIA, the United States, and our allies do about the unprecedented challenge posed by these hostile non-state intelligence agencies?… First, it is high time we called out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists…. We know the danger that Assange and his not-so-merry band of brothers pose to democracies around the world. Ignorance or misplaced idealism is no longer an acceptable excuse for lionizing these demons.
Once again the high hilarity of the deceitful surfaces in Pompeo’s calling Assange a threat to democracy. If that is in any sense true, then Mike Pompeo owes his CIA job to the success of Assange’s “threat.” The real threat is to those who “grant a platform” to WikiLeaks, and those would be all American media for starters. But the scarier part is that Pompeo is not only comfortable demonizing people like Agee or Assange, he literally calls them “demons,” and this is not standard political talk, this is fundamentalism Christian visualizing the devil’s work. When some of the highest officials in the US government are busy chasing “demons,” then US Constitutional government is at serious risk.
Mike Pompeo, 53, the present director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a West Point trained military veteran, a Harvard trained lawyer, and a self-expressed, profound “Christian” bigot and hypocrite. He has no experience in intelligence. The radical former Tea Party congressman from Kansas was confirmed for his CIA role by a 66-32 Senate vote despite his lengthy, fact-free obsession with the Benghazi attack of 2012, or his avid denial of climate change, or his ardent support for keeping Guantanamo and other torture prisons open (he has called torturers “patriots”). He has advocated covert surveillance to collect “all metadata” on Americans, a program that is currently illegal. Pompeo not only magnifies the threat of terrorists like ISIS, he views that threat through a religious lens and apparently believes in the Manichaean formulation that there is currently “a conflict between the Christian west and the Islamic east.”
After his April 13 address, Pompeo took questions, one of which was about President Trump’s relationship with the CIA and the other 16 agencies in the intelligence community. The question apparently referred to such things as President Trump’s tweets earlier this year, blaming leaks on “the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia” and later saying “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” The supposedly “fake news” had exposed multiple Russian contacts with Trump campaign agents as early as 2015, revelations that led directly to the resignation of Trump’s national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn. The question of Russian involvement in electing President Trump remains unresolved.
Despite this context, Pompeo answered the question about the president’s relations with the intelligence community simply: “It’s fantastic.”
The audience laughed. Pompeo added: “Don’t laugh, I mean that.”
Good to know that the head of Central Intelligence believes in fantasy. Reassuring to know that the CIA head wants to “make sure that we know that Jesus Christ our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”
A nation formed by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is now at least partly in the hands of a Christian Taliban.