CIA director: U.S. understands Russian meddling
Pompeo takes hard stance on WikiLeaks, media
AUSTIN — CIA Director Michael Pompeo said on Thursday the U.S. government is aware of and working to counter the Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. elections.
“Make no mistake, the United States government understands Russian efforts to undermine U.S. democracy,” Pompeo said during a forum at the University of Texas at Austin. He was responding to a question about the interference asked by a member of the crowd, which was made up of students, professors and journalists.
In front of a packed room, Pompeo spoke and fielded questions for more than an hour on a wide range of topics, including Iran, North Korea and the media. Pompeo was the keynote speaker of the Texas National Security Forum.
A former Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo was sworn in as the director of the CIA Jan. 23 under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Pompeo avoided criticizing White House, particularly when asked about his boss’s war of words with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.
“The president has made very clear that the capacity of Kim Jong Un to hold Americans at risk to nuclear weapons is unacceptable,” Pompeo said.
“This is serious business and we are intent on delivering the president with intelligence, not only about Kim Jong Un, but the leaders around him, about what’s going on in the commercial space and what’s going on with a broader set of elites in North Korea.
“I can’t say much about that here today,” Pompeo added, “but it is a very tough target and one we have made significant process against the last couple months.”
Pompeo also took a hard line against WikiLeaks, saying there was a need to “take down” the organization. Founded by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks is an international organization that publishes classified information and leaked documents provided anonymously. It has previously drawn the ire of Pompeo, who said in April that the organization was a “hostile intelligence service.”
Pompeo also said the media needed to take a role in the protection of classified information, citing The New York Times’ publication of CIA operative Michael D’Andrea’s name in a June article.
“I think people in the press have an obligation, as well,” Pompeo said. “I am deeply respectful of First Amendment freedoms, but it’s the case when (the New York Times) publishes one of our operative’s names, I find that deplorable. … Today, that’s lawful, and that’s fine but, in my view, that’s inconsistent with their obligation.”
Reform of the agency he leads also appears to be in the cards, as Pompeo was a strong advocate for the decentralization of authority at the CIA during his speech. Pompeo said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was first established in the years following 9/11, needed to be reviewed after 12 years in order to ensure U.S. intelligence operations are running smoothly.
The forum was hosted by multiple UT programs, including the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law, the Intelligence Studies Project, the Clements Center for National Security and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.