Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo, West Point and Harvard Law grad and a member of both the House Intel and Select Committee on Benghazi, joined me today to discuss the OPM breach and the terrorist threat level:
HH: I’m joined now by Congressman Mike Pompeo. He is the representative of Kansas’ 4th Congressional District. He’s also a member of the House Intelligence Committee and of the Special Committee on Benghazi. Representative Pompeo, welcome, it’s always good to talk to you.
MP: Great to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Two things I want to cover. I’ll get to the OPM breach in just a moment. But on Sunday, I was sitting across the table on the set of Face the Nation when your chairman, Devin Nunes, said we were at the greatest risk right now that we have ever been. I think he meant to say since 9/11, but it was more inclusive than that. Do you share that assessment, Mike Pompeo?
MP: I do. And I don’t think you need the caveat of 9/11. It may be that in some of the world wars, there were times that it was a very different condition. But I must say, the scope of the threats, the magnitude of the threats, the breadth of the threats that we face today, is staggering.
HH: Do you think, and when I looked at David Ignatius of the Washington Post after that, and I said that’s sobering, and he agreed. But do you think the American public is hearing that because of tragedy in Charleston and the mayhem brought about by a domestic terrorist? We saw the New York Times today run just a crazy story that there have been more people killed by domestic terrorists, white racists since 9/11 than by jihadis, which is actually true, but it doesn’t accurately convey the threat.
MP: Yeah, that misses the mark wildly. It conveys a fundamental misunderstanding of what this threat really is and who these people are that intend to do harm here in America. I don’t think folks are hearing it enough. They’re not hearing it from their elected officials. They’re not certainly hearing it from this president and his administration. This is the same gang who said that these were jayvee folks and that al Qaeda was on the run. And we know that’s just simply not the case. So we all have an obligation to speak candidly and forcefully to make sure that we provide the resources that meet this threat.
HH: Now I don’t like to talk about the Islamic State videos too much, but yesterday I read to the people the description of the pool drowning video, because they have to understand who we’re dealing with here. I mean, they’re fanatic beyond anything we’ve ever seen.
MP: This is evil at an extraordinary level. To the extent one believes that there are levels of evil, these folks are at the top of the list. And they are intent on the destruction of the West. I don’t know why it is the case that we disbelieve them when they say that. I see so many folks that say oh, that’s just propaganda. Well, we now have far too much evidence to believe that that’s the case. We know that this threats from not only ISIS but al Qaeda around the world, including here in the United States, is very, very real. And we are also now one week away from the deadline that the President has placed on granting the Iranians tens of billions of dollars in relief that will only fuel the fire of terrorism all around the world as well.
HH: And the Supreme Leader rejected any meaningful concessions yesterday. That’s a talk for a different day. I want to turn to the OPM story with you, Congressman Pompeo. I just read the Wall Street Journal editorial today. I told people I was the general counsel and deputy director of the OPM. I describe for them what’s in these files. So did the Journal. Why hasn’t anyone been fired?
MP: Incomprehensible. I don’t know how else to explain it. I can’t account for why there haven’t been not only folks fired, but massive corrective action taken inside that organization that would permit this kind of thing to have happened with no accountability, no one taking responsibility for it, and most importantly, no one beginning the task of ensuring that this kind of thing never happens again, and mitigating the damage from this particular set of breaches.
HH: Do you think the director of OPM and her team are adequate to the task, Mike Pompeo?
MP: Clearly not. I mean, clearly not. I mean, you don’t have to go very far to recognize that. I, Hugh, ran a couple of small businesses for close to 20 years before I ran for office for the first time in 2010. I can assure you that a mistake of this magnitude would not only have resulted in the firing of the person who committed the error, but me as the president of the company would have been gone, too, and rightfully so.
HH: Has the administration been forthcoming to the Intelligence Committee, and you are the right venue, on the scale and nature of the breach, and the risk that it poses? I’ve been speculating along with the Wall Street Journal, because I know what’s in those files. The Chinese have basically a map of every American, and our intelligence agencies, dating back as long as they had digitized it.
MP: You know, I’ll say this. They have been behind the curve in identifying not only the scope, but continuing to uncover the things that need to be done to counter the fact that some of this information is likely in the hands of folks who we don’t want to have it. So there is a lot of work to do, and time is of the essence to protect lots of folks whose data was in the hands of the federal government, and is now likely in the hands of other governments.
HH: Now you know, Mike Pompeo, when Hanssen spied on the United States and gave away our secrets, people died, because the Russians went and they killed the people that they suspected were working for us. The Chinese are going to be able to run different analyses of this data and come to the conclusion who’s working for us, and who’s not. And a bunch of other people, they might sell it, they might turn people, they might blackmail people. The scope of this is Snowden-like. So this is the second time in three years that our government has taken just a knee to the groin. I can’t describe it any other way, and in the worst possible way, and we’re doubled over, and no one seems to know about it.
MP: It is a big deal, Hugh. It is, I don’t make statements like firing folks and saying that a senior leader should be let go from their position lightly. But this is serious business. There are real people out there whose lives and potentially the families of those people whose lives are at risk if this data ends up in the hands of folks that shouldn’t have it. And that risk is out there, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure and protect those folks at the level that is demanded from our government.
HH: Now let me ask about Defense Appropriations, because it’s stuck in the Senate. They won’t vote it. Should people connect that obstructionism by sending Democrats on national defense to all of our failings to secure the national security?
MP: It’s a complete symptom of what’s wrong with the Democrat Party’s view of how it is we should protect these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and all of these intelligence warriors who are out there fighting for us. To not vote on this, I mean, this is not in the history, I get that folks fight and argue and have priorities. This is a simple task. We are at war with this radical Islamist belief, and these folks who want to kill us, and we’ve got a party who has decided not to fund our national security needs. It is absolutely unconscionable, Hugh, and I hope that cooler heads prevail and we actually get this done in a timely fashion.
HH: Last question, Mike Pompeo, is there a special concern about security on July the 4th anywhere in particular?
MP: Hugh, I think where Americans gather in lots of places, we know well that it is a big day where the terrorists also know that it is an American day, an important day in our nation’s history, and we ought to all make sure that we do everything we can to watch what’s going on that day, to make sure that civilians and law enforcement officers on that very special day, and the days around it, come to no harm.
HH: Congressman Mike Pompeo, sober but necessary. Thanks for making time. Follow Mike online and Twitter, @RepMikePompeo. That’s @RepMikePompeo.
End of interview.