“I got a call from the President one afternoon back in April. He wanted to talk about some disturbing images that were coming in from Syria. I’m sure you saw many of them yourselves — scenes of innocent civilians writhing in agony, the apparent victims of a chemical weapons attack.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo
On July 11 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo was the keynote speaker at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) dinner, and was afterward interviewed by Charlie Allen, a senior intelligence adviser at INSA. Director Pompeo talked about his goals for the CIA and national security threats, including ISIS, North Korea and Iran. Other topics included Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
CIA Director Mike Pompeo laid out the chief threats facing the U.S. and the CIA: terrorism, weapons proliferation, cyberwarfare, non-state actors and insider threats that aid groups such as WikiLeaks.
The speech is highly political as its main (only?) purpose appears to justify the policies of the current administration towards Syria, Iran and North Korea as well as to water down the various allegations regarding a possible Trump-Russia collusion.
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Pompeo also blamed John Brennan — his predecessor — for being a poor manager.
“Finally, for us to be successful at confronting the security threats there’s one thing that the CIA has to do and that’s improve and adapt to the changing times and changing threats.
I’m proud to say the agency is operating full throttle with respect to that today. I have taken over an agency with great capability that only needed the bridle removed to accelerate to full speed.”
Mike Pompeo had also a direct message to the American people:
“We have to make sure they know that we’re a foreign intelligence agency. That’s our aim to catch bad guys around the world. We all — and I’d ask your help in this — we have to counter the narrative that the CIA is a rogue agency, somehow untethered from government. I can tell you the CIA is subject to rigorous oversight, from the executive branch and from — within the executive branch, the legislative and from the courts, and we have to push back against stories in the media that are misleading that talk about things that our officers didn’t do and we need to talk about making sure the media understand they’re not permitted to talk about the things our officers actually do.
It is difficult to do in the intelligence business. We operate in secret for good reason. So we’re often limited in what we can say. We have to protect important national security classified information. Sometimes we can’t set the record straight when doing so can harm national security, but I think it’s fundamentally important that we retain the trust of the American people so that they will continue to give us the authority and resources to perform the critical mission we do each day.”
RELATED POST: CIA Director Mike Pompeo tells a whopper
About Khan Shaykhoun
CIA Director Mike Pompeo recalled the events that followed the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in the town of Khan Shaykhoun on 4 April.
Pompeo provided a dramatic account of the events that led up to the US missile attack on the Syrian regime’s Shayrat air base on 7 April.
I got a call from the President one afternoon back in April. He wanted to talk about some disturbing images that were coming in from Syria. I’m sure you saw many of them yourselves—scenes of innocent civilians writhing in agony, the apparent victims of a chemical weapons attack.
The President had a very direct message for me: Find out what happened. So we immediately assembled a crack team of Agency experts. They began piecing together the evidence, working closely with some outstanding partners from across the Intelligence Community.
The CIA assembled “a crack team of 200,” and by the next day’s Cabinet meeting, had concluded that the Syrian government had indeed used chemical weapons.
I told him that the [intelligence community] had concluded that a chemical weapon had indeed been used in the attack, and that it had been launched by the Syrian regime.
Pompeo, are you sure? I’ll admit that the question took my breath away. But I knew how solid the evidence was, and I was able to look him in the eye and say, Mr. President, we have high confidence in our assessment.
Based on the Intelligence Community’s judgment, he made one of the most consequential decisions of his young administration, launching a strike against the very airfield where the attack originated.
COMMENT — This account of the event is truly odd. According to Seymour Hersh’s investigation:
“Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.”
“The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives.”
“Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.”
RELATED POST: Khan Sheikhoun — Trump Ignored US Intelligence
INTEL TODAY covered this event and it is abundantly clear that the official US/CIA story does not make any sense, neither from a scientific nor from a political point of view.
RELATED POST: Former DIA Colonel: “US strikes on Syria based on a lie”
There are some reasons to believe that the new French President has come to the same conclusion recently — as I will explain soon. After being briefed by the DGSE, Macron has made a U-turn on his political agenda for Syria and no longer asks for the departure of President al-Assad, arguing that he has no legitimate successor. (Ironically, this was the view of his opponent during the Presidential campaign.)
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is a powerful nation-state that remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
Its strength and influence continue to increase, most notably in recent years.
When we look at what is happening today in Syria, in Yemen and in Iraq, you can see the threat. Iran clearly inspires to be the hegemonic power in the region.”
COMMENT — Pompeo is well-known for his strong opposition to the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Mr. Pompeo has been a staunch opponent of the agreement the United States and five world powers struck with Iran in 2015 to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions.
About Russian interference in the 2016 election
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that Russian “clearly” meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“Russian interference in U.S. elections is nothing new. Russians also intervened in the 2012 election and previous election cycles. They’ve been at this a hell of a long time.”
COMMENT — This reminded me of the comment by the call-girl Mandy Rice Davies in the Profumo scandal.
“He would say that, wouldn’t he?”
RELATED POST: SEXPIONAGE: From Russia with Love
About Media and Leaks
It’s frustrating, Pompeo said, to read media articles based on improperly released classified information or that portray CIA as a “rogue agency untethered from the government” when in fact there is oversight from courts and Congress. “It’s important to maintain the trust of the American people, the commander-in-chief, and our partners at DoD, State and the FBI,” he said. “We need the nation to understand what the agency does and doesn’t do. The work is noble, important and lawful, and central to keeping Americans safe.”
COMMENT — Pompeo believes Edward Snowden is a traitor who deserves a death sentence.
“He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence.
Having put friends of mine, friends of yours who serve in the military today an enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers.”
The CIA Director reaffirms his views on WikiLeaks, which he describes as a non-state hostile Intelligence Service “that recruits spies and reward people who steal secrets and use that information to subvert western democracies.”
COMMENT — It may be hard to believe today, but Pompeo was once a fan of WikiLeaks!
Mr. Pompeo’s view of WikiLeaks is hardly unique for a senior American intelligence official. But his decision to focus on the group in his debut on Washington’s think-tank circuit as C.I.A. director was the latest sign that neither Mr. Trump nor many of his most senior officials consider themselves beholden to statements they made or stances they took in the presidential campaign, whether they be on WikiLeaks or on allegations of Chinese currency manipulation.
To be sure, Mr. Pompeo never went as far in praising WikiLeaks as Mr. Trump, who declared in a speech on Oct. 10, “I love WikiLeaks!”
But Mr. Pompeo, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an independent research group, appeared to have no compunction during the campaign about pointing people toward emails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and then posted by WikiLeaks.
“Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by WikiLeaks,” he wrote in a Twitter post in July that included a link to a conservative blog. The emails to which the post referred showed that Democratic Party officials favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primary. [NYT]
CIA Director Pompeo “We Must Steal Secrets With Audacity!”
Full TEXT of the speech
[ Introduction — Pompeo offered a tribute to the bravery of an unnamed CIA officer killed defending station in Afghanistan against two car bombings, grenade attacks and suicide bombers, calling him a “one-man wrecking crew” who died showing no fear.]
The agency today in 2017 faces serious threats to our civilization, and we’re bound and duty-bound, rather to fight them. Terrorism, weapons proliferation, they’re all quite tangible. Our mission demand we have determined and aggressive espionage, we must steal secret with audacity and make sure we have unfair advantage against our enemy at every turn. I’m blessed to be the CIA Director and have thousands of officers working toward that same objective and I am incredibly proud to lead them. We will be relentless to defend against the threats to our nation because they’re real. A quick rundown of the things we’re facing today, although not necessarily in order.
First the scourge or terrorism, the agency has been at the center of the fight since September 11th. Even today, as Mosul has fallen and Raqqa is under pressure, the dire threat remains, we still have work to do to defeat ISIS. The same thing we did to core al Qaeda is the mission for them. I hope they’re listening tonight because the CIA will be part of accomplishing that great and noble end. Still we have a bunch of work to do, especially giving ISIS’ willingness to forego major al Qaeda-style attacks in favor of widespread smaller assaults they can pull off easily and with relatively little planning. We should be proud but never complacent, like France and Britain; America has plenty of trucks and plenty of sidewalks.
Next in and much in the news, is North Korea. Pyongyang is pushing 24 hours a day to continue the development of ICBMs that can reach the United States and attack with a nuclear warhead. As we witness last week they conducted their longest ever launch of a missile, an ICBM. This underscores the grave threat and while the president has made clear this is something that must be defeated, diplomatic responses are difficult to achieve. The CIA is ready to help the president achieve his end. For 20 years America whistled past the graveyard of the problem in North Korea. We do not intend for it to go on that much longer. For 20 years, 20 years, we allowed him to continue to develop his weapon systems. It’s time for that to cease.
In Iran we face an adversary on the march. Unlike ISIS, the Islamic republic of Iran is a powerful nation-state that remains this world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. Its strength and influence continue to increase, most notably in recent years. When you look at what is happening today in Syria and Yemen and in Iraq, you can see the threat. Tehran clearly aspires to be the power in the region. And though we’re currently focuses on destroying ISIS, Iran is our biggest challenge and the CIA with perform a central role in pushing back against the threat.
Finally, we confront adversaries, state and non-state actors that seek to erode democracy and the rule of law around the world. This includes groups like WikiLeaks, a non-state hostile intelligent service that recruits spies and reward people who steal secrets and use that information to subvert western democracies. And that surely includes the Russian government. It’s been going on for decades.
The cyber domain has greatly facilitated and accelerated these activities. Instead of having to rely on moles or agent, our adversaries can sit in a room and send ones and zeroes across to do us harm. There’s much work to do. The bottom line it’s hard to sit in the directors a chair and not see a world that is a dangerous place. The threat of the civilized world is real. I come from Kansas, the heartland, and this sense that there’s evil in the world, must be defeated, is not hyperbole or hyperventilation.
What does this mean to the CIA? First it means we have to do everything in our power to provide the strategic understanding for policymakers, to talk about foreign intelligence collection, the core of what we do. It puts tremendous pressure on us. It means we have to be relentless in stealing secrets from at adversaries and we have to be world-class, not just at the CIA but at the NSA, the NGA, FBI… Everybody who has a touch point that helps provide information that can keep our country safe.
When we deliver assessment wed must do so with complete candor, have to speak the truth to whoever we serve without favor. Whenever I swear in new officers tell them they have the duty to deliver the truth in everything that they do. I spend a little bit of time with the president almost every day. Sharing the amazing work the intelligence community has been able to deliver in a single space and single point in time to help inform his decision-making. I’m proud of the fact I get to be that vessel to communicate that information.
We need intellect in a wide range of disciplines. It’s tough stuff to do intelligence work. It requires the capacity to absorb vast amount of information and spot trends and creativity. And frankly we need help from private sector partners as well and I hope we can take advantage of the great work in the private sector to provide world-class product the US government.
Third, if we want to succeed we need a nation that understands what our agency does and what it doesn’t do. I read all the novels. I sat on the oversight committee and had a chance to see the agency a bit, but it’s not possible to truly understand the scope and breadth and capacity of the central intelligence agency without being part of it and I view it as one of my most fundamentally important job to let the American people know that our job is important, lawful and central to keeping America safe.
We have to make sure they know that we’re a foreign intelligence agency. That’s our aim to catch bad guys around the world. We all — and I’d ask your help in this — we have to counter the narrative that the CIA is a rogue agency, somehow untethered from government. I can tell you the CIA is subject to rigorous oversight, from the executive branch and from — within the executive branch, the legislative and from the courts, and we have to push back against stories in the media that are misleading that talk about things that our officers didn’t do and we need to talk about making sure the media understand they’re not permitted to talk about the things our officers actually do.
It is difficult to do in the intelligence business. We operate in secret for good reason. So we’re often limited in what we can say. We have to protect important national security classified information. Sometimes we can’t set the record straight when doing so can harm national security, but I think it’s fundamentally important that we retain the trust of the American people so that they will continue to give us the authority and resources to perform the critical mission we do each day.
We also of course need a commander-in-chief who appreciates this work we do and a US Government that understands it as well. We have to work closely with our partners at defense and state and homeland security and the FBI to make sure we have deep understanding what is really taking place around the world. I’ve now spent six months nearly working for president trump. He is a demanding customer, and frankly, we like it that way. It shows he depends on us and values what we do. Let me give you a brief example to illustrate that point.
Back in April one afternoon, I got a call from the president. He wants to talk about some disturbing images that he saw coming in from Syria. I’m sure you saw many of them yourselves, scenes of innocent civilians writhing in agony, the apparent victims of chemical weapon attacks. The president had a very direct message for me. He wanted to know exactly what had happened and he wants to know quickly. So, we assembled a crack team –a couple hundred folks at the Agency — to begin to diagnose and understand what had taken place. They began piecing together evidence, working closely with some outstanding partners from across the Intelligence Community.
The next day the president called the cabinet together. Then he turned to me and asked what we had learned. Several of us shared what we now knew. I told them that the intelligence community had concluded that chemical weapon had indeed been used in the attack and launched by the Syrian regime. The president paused a moment and said: “Pompeo, are you sure?”
I will admit it took my breath away. Hope it did for some of you as well. But I knew that the intelligence community had solid evidence, evidence we could provide to the president that he could count on, and I was able to look at him and say, Mr. President, we have high confidence that is what truly took place. He never looked back. Based on the judgment me made one of the most consequential decisions on his young administration, launch an air strike against the very air field from which the attack originated.
Finally, for us to be successful at confronting the security threats there’s one thing that the CIA has to do and that’s improve and adapt to the changing times and changing threats. I’m proud to say the agency is operating full throttle with respect to that today. I have taken over an agency with great capability that only needed the bridle removed to accelerate to full speed.
We have the responsibility for global coverage but will create new priorities. I have created two new mission centers aimed at putting a dagger in the heart of the Korean problem and the Iran problem. This makes clear that we understand that the president asked us a specific set of pieces of information he needed critically to perform against the tasks he views as most vital to our nation’s security.
They remind me of when I ran a small business. Many tasks had to perform at a very high level of excellence but we also had immediate tasks, things that if we failed the company might not continue to exist. The government is a little different. This immediate feedback loop isn’t always there but at the same dynamic, agile organization I tried to run as a business owner, sits before me today.
I’m demanding excellence from anyone at all times and finding that everyone there wants to achieve it. We won’t always succeed. There will be bad days. But we have to accept some risks in our agency in order to be successful. If you’re not coming short of time, you’re probably not reaching hard enough and we’re going to do that. Reach hard every day.
So since taking office just 24 week ago I have seen first-hand why CIA officers are considered a national treasure. They operate with courage, determination and humility. When I thanked them, they often shun recognition. They say they’re just doing their jobs. They say they signed up to do this mission and indeed they did. Their dedication is to a cause larger than themselves and that certainly makes the CIA very special and why I’m so confident about our future. I have no doubt whatsoever that our country will turn to the CIA many times and we will prevail against today’s adversaries and those yesterday to come. Thank you for having me here today. Look forward to your questions.
CIA Director Calls Morale ‘Spectacularly High’ Despite Trump Criticism — Government Executive
CIA Director Pompeo “We Must Steal Secrets With Audacity!”