CIA Director Mike Pompeo gave his first post-confirmation sit-down interview with a national network Saturday, appearing on the first episode of Hugh Hewitt's MSNBC show.
Most of the media attention given to the interview has focused on Pompeo's remarks about leaks, punishment, and Snowden worship:
"I think there is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandizement or money or for whatever their motivation may be, does seem to be on the increase....I think the extent we can help people understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, there’ll be a lot less support for these traitors who have done real harm to the men and women of America’s armed forces who are out there on freedom’s frontier."
A number of other hot topics were discussed, though, that deserve some attention. The Washington Post reported Friday that the intelligence community had information in the summer of 2016 that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in a "cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race" and defeat Hillary Clinton. The left seems to think this is unprecedented, and Pompeo couldn't directly comment on the Post report, but said:
"The intelligence community has said that this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is, frankly, not particularly original. They’ve been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy."
During the Obama administration, many people who worked in the intelligence community were frustrated by the amount of sensitive information and level of detail Obama, his staff, and his national security appointees would share with the press. Pompeo's much more circumspect in this regard (even if Trump sometimes has loose lips), and educated viewers as to why he simply won't answer some questions in any way.
"To the extent that you ask me a question and I answer it, the next time, you might ask a question that I simply can’t answer, because we’re trying to make sure that assets that the intelligence community is running, or Americans who are out collecting intelligence, are in dangerous places. And as we start to answer questions, every time we answer one, and then the following question we say we can’t answer, we’ve given away the answer. And so we simply refuse to confirm or deny just about every operational activity associated with what we do in the intelligence community."
When there are national security issues, such as the investigation into Russian interference in our election, the public reasonably wants to have as much information as possible, and Pompeo is committed to responsibly sharing that information.
"And so it is important that we communicate what the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, all of those folks are up to. And to the extent we can declassify that information in a way that doesn’t harm or put at risk an asset or a method that we’re using, we have an obligation to do that."
And, just like the rest of us, Pompeo agrees that news cannot be taken at face value anymore due to anonymous sources - and that the administration "is incredibly focused on both stopping leaks of any kind from any agency, and when they happen, pursuing them with incredible vigor."
In contrast to President Obama, Pompeo says Trump takes his intelligence briefings seriously.
"I’m with the President nearly every day. We have 35 or 40 minutes on his schedule. That almost always runs long, which is great. Great questions. He is a serious consumer of the product that the intelligence community delivers, and I appreciate that, because I think it informs how he thinks about the world. I know that my predecessor handled it differently. Wasn’t there very often."
Considering the number of threats domestically and around the world, that is likely a jam-packed 35 or 40 minutes. As to what those threats are, Pompeo said there are open terrorism investigations in every state, that Iran poses more of a long-term threat to the United States than North Korea - and that Iran's influence "far outstrips where it was six or seven years ago." So, apparently, all of that diplomacy with Iran during the Obama administration had an opposite effect.
The entire interview can be seen on Hewitt's website.