Michael Richard Pompeo was confirmed on January 23, 2016 as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by a Senate vote of 66 to 32. When Donald Trump tapped him for the role on November 18, he was representing Kansas' 4th congressional district in the House of Representatives as a Republican and serving on the House Intelligence Committee. He rode the Tea Party wave to D.C. in 2010 and has been a vocal proponent of the movement’s conservative agenda.
By moving from politics to intelligence, Pompeo, 53, has crossed "a sort of Rubicon," as former acting CIA director John McLaughlin put it to NPR in December. McLaughlin added that Pompeo would need to shed partisan posturing and survey world affairs "clinically."
He may find that difficult in the current environment, after Trump openly feuded with the country’s intelligence agencies over their conclusion – which he rejects – that Russia carried out a concerted cyber campaign intended to swing the election in his favor. Pompeo is unlikely to have much of a soft spot for the Kremlin. Between graduating at the top of his West Point class in 1986 and entering Harvard Law in 1991, he served as a cavalry officer in Germany, "patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall," as his Congressional website’s bio puts it.
He has not publicly addressed Russia's alleged role in leaking Democratic leaders' emails, but the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), citing an unnamed source, reported on January 4 that he agrees with Trump that allegations of Russian interference are meant to discredit the election's results. The source also said that Trump plans to restructure the CIA, reducing staff at its headquarters and moving more employees abroad; the decision is based on the view that, in the source's words, "the intelligence world has become completely politicized."
Trump appears to have nominated Pompeo based on shared priorities, such as Pompeo's vocal criticism of Hillary Clinton. He sat on the House's select committee on Benghazi and, when the panel found no evidence of wrongdoing by the former secretary of state in relation to the embassy attack, he co-authored a 48-page addendum to the report in which he suggested the Obama administration had "concealed" relevant information.
Pompeo and Trump also hold similar views on counter-terrorism. Both have resisted curbs on harsh interrogation. Pompeo opposed the Obama administration's 2009 closure of "black sites," offshore CIA facilities, as well as the requirement that interrogators adhere to Field Army Manual rules. He resists closing Guantánamo Bay.
Pompeo presaged Trump's assertions that Muslim leaders do not do enough to denounce attacks in 2013: in a speech on the House floor following the Boston Marathon bombings, Pompeo referred to these leaders' "deafening" silence. The Council on American-Islamic Relations countered that at least six Muslim organizations (itself included) had condemned the attackers within 24 hours of the bombing.
Pompeo is also deeply opposed to the nuclear deal the Obama administration struck with Iran. In an Op-Ed published by Fox News in July, he said Iran had "co-opted the U.S. Secretary of State [John Kerry] into acting as Iran's Minister of Economic Development" and urged the administration to "walk away from this deal."
Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who revealed the government's bulk collection of citizens' phone metadata in 2013, has come in for particular criticism from Pompeo, who has recommended that Snowden be executed. In a January 2016 op-ed in the WSJ, Pompeo called for the reinstatement of bulk metadata collection and other surveillance programs that were discontinued in response to Snowden's leaks. He also recommended an increase in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) funding due to the increased need for human intelligence in an era of readily available encryption.
Regarding encryption, Pompeo's views are complex. He rejects the kind of "back door" access to hardware and software that FBI director James Comey demanded from Apple Inc. (AAPL) in February – but only because it would "do little good"; he reasons that terrorists would move to foreign products. On the other hand, his opinion that "the use of strong encryption in personal communications may itself be a red flag" has alarmed privacy advocates.