HH: I’m joined by Congressman Mike Pompeo from Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Select Committee on Benghazi as well. Congressman Pompeo, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. As always, I stipulate at the beginning that you are not going to give us any of the intelligence stuff that I’m sure you’ve been briefed on, but this is very alarming what the FBI director had to say today about encryption and terrorists in America. Would you summarize this stuff?
MP: Well, we’ve now got a problem that the president refuses to take on in any serious way. It’s a threat that begins in places other than here, and we now find it all around us in places like San Bernardino and places like Kansas, where two years ago, we had an Islamist attempt to blow up our airport. Today, the FBI director talked about this threat. It’s created when these bad actors, terrorists who commit radical Islamic jihadism do so without any ability for the FBI to trace and track conversations, even when they identify the person, this encryption is an incredibly difficult problem for them to deal with.
HH: Can you explain and break this down for the Steelers fans out there, when we talk about encryption, we all don’t want anyone to be able to read our email, but that’s not encryption. That’s security on your email file. Encryption is something completely different.
HH: Can you explain that to people?
MP: That’s a very, Hugh, thank you, it’s a very, very important distinction. I’m a Constitutional conservative. I want enormous amount of privacy for myself and my family, and all of your listeners. But the difference is when there is a warrant, or is there is reasonable suspicion that someone is behaving in a way to give the police, consistent with the 4th Amendment, the ability to go track someone’s conversation. If you just have their email, you can still be secure, but those folks can get in there with proper court approval. What encryption is, is a technology that even when the court says yes, you are permitted law enforcement, or you are permitted intelligence agency to find a non-U.S. person’s conversation, you can’t get there, because the technology has prevented them from getting in. It would be as if we knew that there was a murderer in the house, and the house was constructed in a way that despite of the fact that there was a warrant for a search of the house, and a warrant to arrest the person, the police could not get into the home.
HH: Yeah, it’s like a safe room.
HH: And so how do we defeat that? What does Silicon Valley, and I say that meaning Google and Apple and Yahoo and Ali Baba and everybody else, China and here in the United….all these tech companies have created a variety, and I don’t want to be exclusive. I’m not blaming anyone. But technology is ahead of the law enforcement here. So what do we do?
MP: So that’s right. The technology has put us in a difficult position. What we need is those really smart technologists, some of which work in the government, most of which don’t, most of which work for the kinds of companies you just described, to work alongside local law enforcement and the FBI to develop a mechanism that permits the government to get access when it has lawful reasons to do so. It’s possible to achieve. The technology is fairly complex. But make no mistake about it, I think every citizen who understood the nature of these jihadists, what it is they’re trying to do, would gladly promote these companies helping law enforcement get access to those through lawful Constitutional means.
HH: Now let me talk with you about your fellow Harvard Law grad and friend, Tom Cotton’s proposal to restore metadata collection authority. As I read the New York Times this afternoon, it turns out that one of the San Bernardino terrorists has been planning his attack since 2012.
HH: If I understand what happened in the law correctly, the government lost the ability to access anything older than two years, even if the phone companies kept it. Have I got that right, Mike Pompeo?
MP: That’s right.
MP: So it’s a little complicated. What we did do now, months back, was eliminate the program that is under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That was a program that allowed the government to hold onto metadata, not personal information, but just a series of numbers. So the government no longer has that data in its hands. It has to return to the phone companies. And in the meantime, courts have made rulings about that transition period that have not been clear. So it is the case that if the government today doesn’t have the full range of access that it had just a handful of months ago, really with the aim not only of identifying these folks who committed these crimes, but taking down the network with which they were associated.
HH: Now I am under the impression that this network is getting bigger by the day. We now have Mr. Enrique Marquez, and he’s not guilty, he hasn’t even been arrested, yet. He’s been interviewed by federal authorities, but if you go back to 2012 and the dating service that hooked up the black widow jihadist with the American jihadist, there have got to be a web of contacts. Any, I don’t even watch CSI or stay at a Holiday Inn, but I know you’ve got to talk to people.
MP: Hugh, this was the critical nature of Section 215. This was its importance. What it allowed law enforcement to do without violating anyone’s Constitutional rights was to go identify persons who were within communications with known bad actors, whether those known bad actors were in Islamabad or Iowa. And it allowed them to do it in a way that protected individual rights. Today, we’ve now given up that capacity to go build out the intelligence networks so that we can take down that series of next attacks.
HH: It’s remarkable to me. That’s got to be repaired. Now let’s talk a little bit about the parallel conversation about gun control, which you know, it’s a fine conversation to have. I don’t like gun violence, either. If anyone wants to step forward and talk to me about how to keep guns out of the hands of people who have had a schizophrenic break or some other kind of mental disorder that makes them dangerous to the public, I’m happy to have that conversation. But Mike Pompeo, you’re a West Point grad. You’ve been around weapons. I assume that they still train you with weapons in the Army. I’m not sure. Go Navy, beat Army. But I’ve got to ask, do these gun control proposals have anything to do with the problem we’re facing on the Islamist side?
MP: Hugh, they’re just a complete distraction from the failure of this president’s policies to keep us all safe not only from ISIS, but from al Qaeada and al-Shabaab, and all the other radical Islamic extremists. They are radically disconnected from anything that would provide a solution. We saw in San Bernardino, that’s the case we’re talking about today, we saw that they didn’t use firearms only, right? They had pipe bombs. They had explosives. They had other materials that would not have had anything to do with any no-fly list. The liberals want to talk about terrorists getting guns. My biggest concern is terrorists having access to the victims. And we need to make sure that we do everything we can to give law enforcement and our intelligence community the ability to identify these folks. The bad guys are going to get guns. I don’t think for one moment an additional law out in your great state there, Hugh, in California, one more law on the books would have prevented these folks from getting access to the weaponry through which they conducted such mayhem.
HH: What did you make of Donald Trump’s proposal about Islamic immigration, Mike Pompeo?
MP: You know, I sort of see it sort of like the gun control issue in some ways, Hugh. I disagree with it, because I just don’t think it’s connected to a real solution to the problem. We need to make sure that anyone who wants to come to this country that presents a risk is fully vetted and screened and denied access. So whatever faith they might be, a blanket proposal in the way that Mr. Trump did I think is a distraction from the real challenge, which is the destruction of ISIS and al Qaeda. We’ve allowed folks to take us from the President’s failed speech to talking about Mr. Trump’s remarks. We need to go back to developing a strategy to defeat this threat.
HH: Can we go back to opening the terrorists’ house for the media to trample through? I mean, you and I are both lawyers. I was at the Department of Justice. I never seen anything like that, and it causes me to lose confidence in the whole process of terror investigation. What did you make of that?
MP: I was very surprised. It was a very quick turnover. I am not certain how they think they had complete all the work at that site that needs to be completed in order to develop all the information that needed to be developed. I was very surprised by that. I’m hoping to learn that I’m wrong, that they were done, they’d done everything they needed, they had completely scoured the home before, but that was really fast, Hugh.
HH: There was no fingerprint dust. I once was burgled in 1979, and I couldn’t get rid of the fingerprint dust in the apartment for like weeks. It was everywhere.
HH: And there was no, they had not dusted the place. It just was not possible to have done that. So Mike Pompeo, looking more broadly, and again, recognizing you’re on the House Intelligence Committee and you can’t say anything that would compromise that, do Americans have an adequate appreciation of the number of people trying to kill them in the variety of ways they are trying to do it?
MP: No, that threat is greater than it’s been. I’ve been on the Intelligence Committee now for over three years. The threat is greater today than it has been in any time in those three years. And it started from a pretty high point. And I’ll give you a good example. In a place like Kansas, there are dozens and dozens of investigations of radical Islamic terrorists in Kansas today. There is an awful lot of work to do, and we need to be grateful for what our police and sheriff’s officers, and state and national law enforcements do, but we have to make sure we give them all the tools that they need to reduce the risks of something like San Bernardino can ever happen.
HH: Congressman Mike Pompeo, thanks for the extended interview today. I appreciate your time on a busy week, a news week, but priorities come first.
End of interview.