HH: That’s our ‘We talk about terrorism a lot’ intro – Lawrence Wright, Dexter Filkins, Mike Morell, others who know the war. One of those, of course, Congressman Mike Pompeo, is on the House Intelligence Committee from Kansas’ 4th Congressional District. Good morning, Congressman, good to speak with you.
MP: Hugh, good morning, and congratulations on your new gig.
HH: Now I assume that being a Kansas guy, you get up early, not like Campbell, that you really, you know, you’re out there with the cows and the stuff like that. Am I right about that?
MP: I don’t know about all the cows, but it is midday for me right now.
HH: Okay, so you’re in D.C. It’s Midday. Let me go to, there’s a lot of news on the political front, and I will go back to that. But I want to talk to you about the iPhone and encryption and a bill that’s moving through the Senate. The New York Times reporting this morning that the FBI isn’t saying whether the information extracted from the iPhone used by a gunman in San Bernardino has been useful to the investigation, they’re being quiet about that. A lawyer for the Bureau says it hasn’t told Apple how it cracked the company’s vaunted encryption methods. The comments come as What’sApp, which is owned by Facebook, introduced full encryption for its service to ensure that only the sender and the recipient can see photos, videos and group text messages. How troubling is that to you as a member of the Intelligence Committee, Mike Pompeo?
MP: Hugh, with all of the things we’ve seen over the past handful of years, with our absence of ability to get the signals intelligence that American needs to defend itself, it’s very problematic. We’ve got to figure out a solution that protects privacy, but at the same time allows our intelligence community to get the information that they need. And it goes beyond even counterterrorism and international intelligence. Local law enforcement, too. Traditionally, Hugh, we all know, right, to get a warrant, and you get access to information you need. And Article III judge tells you that you can seek that information. And now, we’ll be in a place for the first time where we have allowed private enterprise to set up systems that allow rapists and criminals and pornographer and pedophiles to hide their conversations in ways that the Constitution simply doesn’t permit. And so I hope that these, businesses will begin to think more seriously about this, to do the right thing for their customers, both from a privacy perspective and from a safety perspective.
HH: Now I remind the audience of the groundbreaking television series, The Wire, which went back to Baltimore and drug dealers. Forget terrorism and jihadists for a second, and just focus on what you just said, domestic, run of the mill criminal activity. They required runners, and they require, but Baltimore P.D., in that series, based very closely on real operations, able to penetrate with human intelligence and signals intelligence, vast drug-running conspiracies. This sort of encryption is going to be the silk road, people will know that story, for everyone. I mean, the first people that are going to sign up for What’sApp are going to be the underworld.
MP: Look, careful, I’m Italian. You’ve got to watch that.
MP: The, no, that’s exactly right. Hugh, there’s cases now across the country where you have families who have had loved ones harmed or murdered, and they are convinced that information that could lead to capturing the folks who did harm to their family member is sitting in a telephone. And because of the way businesses have marketed themselves, and intentionally set it up in a way that government can’t get at it, this is not the Snowden issue. And I think there’s a lot of confusion out there about that. These are searches conducted deeply consistent with the 4th Amendment where law enforcement has gone to court and said hey, we’ve got probable cause to figure out, to believe that this phone has information that’s valuable in the arrest or capture in our investigation. We want to go see it, and a judge has said you should be able to have access to it. We’ve got to find a solution where law enforcement and our intelligence lawyers can get that information as well.
HH: Now Congressman, over on the Senate side, our counterpart, Richard Burr, who’s the chairman of that committee, has got a draft bill on encryption. And I chatted with Leader McConnell about it yesterday. He doesn’t know if it’s going to make it through the Senate this session. What do you know about that draft bill? Are you coordinating to avoid the tennis ball effect of a bill that’s urgently needed, in my view?
MP: Hugh, there’s no time for sending it back and forth. We all need to work together. The committees are doing that, trying to all come to a place where we believe we can get the votes we need. This also, Hugh, is important to have from a timing perspective. We shouldn’t have a bill that’s partisan. This issue is not a Republican issue, Democrat issue. We have to make sure that we craft a bill in concert with industry that does, accomplishes both. I think it can be done. We have done it since the time SigInt was created, since the time of telecommunications. We have worked alongside industry to find solutions to meet they and their customers’ needs for protection, both from criminals and from folks who are trying to pry to get their information. It’s entirely possible that Senator Burr has taken a very good first pass at that. And I hope that, and I know Senator McConnell hopes, too, that we can actually get this done in the next handful of months.
HH: Now you’re on this, the House committee. Your friend and a friend of this show, Senator Cotton, is on the Senate Intel Committee. How are you guys actually approaching the drafting of this? Have you got staff set aside? Are they working in the SCIFF’s? Is industry coming in? This is such a delicate bill, and so much is at stake, it’s not like the normal pork barrel, log-rolling exercise we see on an appropriations deal. This has got to be right.
MP: No, so that’s exactly right. This is incredibly serious, and you described the process pretty well. You have folks who understand these issues, a lot of whom you have on your show who have lived this, who have worked as CIA case officers, or they’ve worked as desk analysts at the National Security Agency, or they’ve worked at county sheriff offices and police forces across the country helping is work alongside industry. So the biggest telecom communications companies in the world are working alongside of us saying that we can’t do that, or we can’t do this. There are technical issues, there are national security issues, there are, of course, political issues. And we need to make the last of those, the political issues, the least important, and work on the technical and the feasibility issues to craft a piece of legislation that we can gain consensus not only in the Senate and the House, but across America that this is the right way to handle this very complex, but incredibly important issue.
HH: All right, Congressman, we will keep checking up on that with you. I want to switch over to politics for a moment. Last time you were on, we talked about the Supreme Court nomination. Leader McConnell yesterday said there are very few cracks in the wall, and that the SCOTUS nomination of Merrick Garland is not moving forward. Your Senator, Jerry Moran’s, one of the few kind of paint chips, it’s not a crack, that fell off of the wall. Have you, has he backtracked, yet? Has he reeled himself back in and joined the rest of the party?
MP: His team put out a statement at the end of last week indicated he has moved back to a place that’s much closer to where Leader McConnell is, and I applaud him for that, and I applaud all the Senators who have kind of wandered down the path which was going to open up the first, the first little seam. And Hugh, you’ve been vigorously defending the right position, no hearings and no votes. Senator Moran has moved back much closer to that position. I’m excited we, you know the pressures that would be on the moment there’s that hearing, and a difficult position it would put some members of my party. We can’t permit that. We should allow the next president to choose the next Supreme Court justice. This may be the most important issue facing the United States Senate for the remainder of its time before the next president is elected. This could affect the law and jurisprudence for generations. And the Senate needs to do the right thing, and its Constitutional duty, and deny consent to the Obama nominees.
HH: Now Congressman, Seung Min Kim, who is the Congressional correspondent for Politico, tweeted a question knowing that you’re on with me. Can you please ask him, she tweets, if he’s planning on primarying Moran? Have you ruled out a primary against Jerry Moran?
MP: You know, Hugh, you’ve known me long enough to know I’m going to always try and find the right place to serve Kansas and America. We’re trying to figure out exactly where that is. And in the next days or maybe a week or so, we’ll figure that out. You’ll be right among the first to know.
HH: So that’s still an open possibility?
MP: Hugh, it’s a great day in Kansas (laughing).
HH: (laughing) I guess, I was unaware of this, but that will be, count me in, Congressman. Count me in if that goes.
HH: We’ll have to get a Wichita outpost, but count me in.
MP: That’s very kind of you.
HH: I will leave it at that, and Congressman Mike Pompeo, that’s going to blow up a few headlines. So check back with us next week, will you?
MP: Have a great, I will, sir. Have a great day.
HH: (laughing) You, too.
End of interview.