The U.S. Senate confirmed Representative Mike Pompeo as President Donald Trump’s CIA director on Monday, after a delay tied to some lawmakers’ worries he might expand surveillance or allow the use of certain interrogation techniques widely considered torture.
Sixty-six senators backed Pompeo and 32 voted against. All the opposition was from Democrats, except for Senator Rand Paul, a leading Republican advocate for strict control of surveillance. Shortly afterward, Pompeo was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.
Some senators felt Pompeo, 53, had not pledged strongly enough to allow only the use of interrogation techniques included in the Army Field Manual, as required by law, rather than return to waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs, used by the CIA in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, signed an executive order in 2009 banning waterboarding – a form of simulated drowning – and other EITs, which are denounced by many lawmakers and rights groups as torture.
In response to written questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pompeo said he was open to changing policy under certain circumstances. “I will consult with experts… on whether the Army Field Manual uniform application is an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country.” Pompeo wrote.
Trump promised during his presidential campaign to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden spoke for more than an hour in the Senate in opposition to Pompeo’s nomination, saying he had provided inconsistent answers on surveillance and interrogation tactics, making it impossible to know how he would implement policy at the CIA.
Wyden cited an op-ed Pompeo co-authored last year that called for restarting the bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata and combining it with financial and lifestyle information into one searchable database.
He accused Pompeo of having proposed “the most sweeping new surveillance program I have ever heard of.”
Paul wrote in an op-ed: “I voted against the new CIA Director because I worry that his desire for security will trump his defense of liberty.”
Most Republicans called Pompeo, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, an excellent choice.
Senator John McCain, a leader of the fight for legislation barring the use of the rough interrogation methods, said: “I have no reason to doubt Congressman Pompeo’s word.”
McCain added: “I fully support his confirmation. Going forward, I will continue to closely monitor this issue, and use my oversight powers to ensure the law is obeyed.”
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)