On January 11th Mr Michael Pompeo will have his confirmation hearing to be President Elect Donald Trump’s Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. For some reason it reminds me of a diligent U.S. Senator called Frank Church.
In the summer of 1975, on NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’, Senator Church reported on completing a comprehensive investigation of the U.S. intelligence community.
He had come away stunned by what he had found at the National Security Agency (NSA), even in that digital stone age: “That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left. There would be no place to hide … I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America.” The report is worth having a look at, even over 40 years old.
His report was like a textbook example straight out of Robert Higgs’ famous work Crisis and Leviathan, where the state never decreases and always accretes power and scale by calling upon the necessity of crisis again and again and again to gain further executive capacity.
In 2013, Edward Snowden echoed Frank Church. “A new leader will be elected, they’ll find the switch, say that ‘Because of the crisis, because of the dangers in the world, some new and unprecedented threat, we need more authority, we need more power'”, Snowden said in an interview with Glenn Greenwald. “And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”
Trump is about to be handed those keys.
In a December 2015 radio interview Trump expressed support for the NSA collection of telephone metadata, which is now outlawed. “As far as I’m concerned, that would be fine. When you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security.” This interview was well before he was the Republican candidate for President. He is about to become the President. Trump’s view on Snowden was that in the past such spies had been executed.
Which brings me to Mr Pompeo. Mike Pompeo is Trump’s chosen head of the CIA. Mr Pompeo wrote in the Wall Street Journal in January 2016: “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with all publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.” He has also called for Snowden to be executed.
This is different to the current President’s approach. The Snowden revelations of 2014 had an effect. President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 28 of 2014 states that surveillance can’t ever be used, for instance, to give U.S. companies a competitive edge, or to quell dissent abroad.
I hope to see Mike Pompeo questioned about this, and about how he will execute President Trump’s policy intent. Trump of course now has the pen to rescind such Presidential orders.
Sure, I worry about Trump’s access to the nuclear codes. What should concern us all more is his direction on domestic spying through all kinds of metadata and all kinds of financial and lifestyle information, on all kinds of people.