CIA direc­tor: U.S. un­der­stands Rus­sian med­dling

Pom­peo takes hard stance on Wik­iLeaks, me­dia

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Paul Cobler

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.


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