The United States Intelligence Community is easily the most prolific such organization on the globe. They are the silent heroes fighting to protect the national security of the United States and her allies. With such power though, as they say, comes equal responsibility. And though laws and organizations are in place to set parameters for them and hold them accountable, intelligence agencies enjoy a general veil of secrecy over their actions. This leaves agency heads, who ultimately set the direction for their respective agencies, with an incredible amount of power and responsibility.
On the topic of power, the Central Intelligence Agency is likely the most powerful singular bureau in the world―an agency capable of and historically responsible for many high-profile assassinations and paramilitary operations, financially and militarily supportive of many a coup, foremost collector of overseas intelligence, and leader in covert operations. According to an Intelligence Budget leaked by Edward Snowden, the CIA boasted a budget of $14.7 billion in 2013, a significant 28 percent of the budget for all 17 Intelligence Community agencies.
Atop the vast jungle of bureaucracy along with the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense is the Director of the CIA. Donald Trump’s choice to fill this most enormous position, to direct the most powerful paramilitary organization in the world and administer a budget larger than the GDP of Jamaica as he sees fit, is a House Representative from Kentucky, Congressman Mike Pompeo. After a small hiccup forced by Senator Ron Wyden, an always-rigorous critic of the CIA, the Senate confirmed Pompeo to be the next DCIA late last night with a vote of 66-32.
He may not have a résumé that glimmers as bright as some of his fellow Cabinet Members-to-be, but that also means he is subject to none of the ‘billionaire’ noise or conflict-of-interest investigation of which many find themselves constantly in defense. In fact, The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that his net worth is less than $300,000, putting him at under thirty percent of the 2013 average for Congress members. Clearly, President-Elect Trump has tended to prefer the wealthier to the more experienced (in his Cabinet, at least), perhaps due to their ambition and successful attitude. So how does Pompeo fit into this picture?
Background and Ideas on National Security
Pompeo made his start in politics as a Kentucky representative, serving on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and most recently the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Before that, however, Pompeo graduated first in his class from West Point in 1986, served in the army, and then attended Harvard Law School.
Since his election to the House, Pompeo has shown an intent to revamp the data collection programs controversially initialized by former President Bush with the PATRIOT Act and quietly continued to a lesser degree (thanks to public outcry over what Snowden’s leaks unveiled) under former President Obama with the USA FREEDOM Act. In an article Pompeo co-authored for the Wall Street Journal, he calls for “Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance [to] be removed.”
This initiative is relatively unsurprising; what is rather surprising is his call for Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of classified documents including those which referenced the NSA’s secretive data mining program, to receive the death sentence.
He opposes the closing of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and was against Obama’s closing of the CIA’s so-called “black sites.” This has led some to believe he will be lax on using torture as an interrogation method. However, in his confirmation hearing, he disputed these claims by saying he will “absolutely not” restart the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques (i.e. torture) even if asked by the President.
It is certain that Pompeo is probably too political a figure for many to head the most powerful bureaucracy in the world, but there are reasons to assume he will abandon his previous, highly partisan tendencies in light of pragmatic advisement. George H.W. Bush was also a highly politicized person going into his stint as Director of Central Intelligence (a similar position at the time) but did a fine job by all accounts.
Furthermore, according to the New York Times, Democrat Adam Schiff of California stated that “While we have had our share of strong differences — principally on the politicization of the tragedy in Benghazi — I know that he is someone who is willing to listen and engage, both key qualities in a C.I.A. director.” So there is hope even for his staunchest critics.
An Unfortunate Clue Hinting Toward a Muslim Registry
“When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith, and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith.”
If the Senator had halted his comments there, perhaps adding one of the many examples of denouncement of extremist attacks from the Muslim Community, any criticism would have been undue. Yet, in a form similar to that of a certain orange-haired man, he unwittingly continued:
“Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
CAIR, the Council for American-Islamic Relations, reports the happening in more detail and cites few (of many) Muslim responses to the Boston attacks as an example. While these remarks do not necessarily yield enough information to label the DCIA nominee as ‘Anti-Islam’ outright, as certain news organizations have not hesitated to do, they do bring about an important distinction in today’s GOP and continue to create an unwanted foundation for Trump’s most controversial initiative: the limitation of liberties for Muslim-Americans.
The so-called ‘Muslim Database,’ an idea that many, more sensible conservatives hoped to be more of a campaign soundbite than a true attempt at solving a complex problem, continues to hold its place center-stage in the guessing game that is Trump’s true policy goals. In response to whether his plans about creating a Muslim registry or implementing a ban on Muslim immigration have changed, he responded, “You’ve known my plans all along.”
To be clear, we simply do not know his plans. Still, the simple entertainment of the notion is annoying to many of us on the right.
The idea of a database for Muslims residing in the States is, if not carelessly divisive, utterly unnecessary and even repetitive. The FBI, NSA, and CIA need no excuse to tag every person returning from Middle-Eastern areas known to be training grounds for terrorist organizations.
What about those Muslims who become radicalized in the United States, you may ask. How is the government to know they will not commit the next bombing, the next kidnapping, or the next massacre?
Well, if there is not probable cause to charge them with planning an attack (i.e. searching how to make a bomb, communicating with known terror suspects, or frequenting radical Islamic online forums in addition to adherence to basic law), there is no sure way to catch them. At least, no way that anyone of our civilian status knows of . . .
With a budget three times larger than the annual GDP of Afghanistan, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the United States Intelligence Community is tasked with thwarting terrorism as one of its top goals. We can be sure that there are efforts going on in relative silence, as the aforementioned mining of metadata once was.
Whether or not you believe your privacy to be worth sacrificing for the extra edge the U.S. Government receives in fighting terrorism and thereby protecting national security (or whatever your problem with mass surveillance may be, and there are a few), the incoming administration will surely have no plans to rear mass surveillance back. At any rate, the continuation of mass surveillance programs warrant Trump’s vitriolic idea for a Muslim registry completely useless in addition to being offensive, as the left is having no trouble pointing out.
Trump is not the first politician to want a better system for finding and thwarting terrorists in the United States and abroad, and the structure and budget of the Intelligence Community (a facet of the executive branch) reflect that as clearly as secretive agencies are able. The Intelligence Community offers as surefire a way as is conceivable to thwart terrorism within the United States. It could surely use some updates, some new leadership, and maybe even some new directives from our new President, but it is still effective and massive enough for Trump’s registry idea to be useless.
In fact, continuing this spiteful rhetoric against the Muslim community is as surefire a way as there is to increase the number of people radicalized in the United States and abroad.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that many Democrats approach the situation somewhat pointlessly by self-righteously emphasizing the avoidance of the ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ “label” to far too great an end in order to “avoid scapegoating peaceful Muslims,” as Hillary Clinton warned in a press conference two years ago. My intuition tells me that Clinton’s avoidance of the term was no help to her by any stretch of the imagination―it was the easiest attacking point for Trump’s crusade against the politically correct. And it truly is rather silly, perhaps even more offensive to avoid the term. After all, such careful avoidance of any mention of Islam along with terrorism for fear of connecting the two implicitly connects the two just as much as, if not more so, than simply calling it what it is. Surely I need not expand on this point except to say the term “Islamic terrorism” should always be separate by default from any mention of the religion followed by the masses.
At any rate, the registry idea is too extreme an opposite from Clinton’s policy goals that were honestly pretty tough on terrorism to begin with. And, for now, the confirmation of Congressman Pompeo, while not direct proof by any means, still serves as an unfortunate clue toward the likelihood of the push for a Muslim database. If it happens, I trust and hope that Republican lawmakers will come down hard on this needless breach of religious freedom before it reaches the desks of the Supreme Court. If they should fail to do so, the Republican Party may be in quite grave danger.
—Nick Geeslin is Editor In Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE.
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