CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo — whose confirmation vote in the Senate is set for Monday — has said he is open to changing the rules governing the interrogation of detainees, which could mean re-authorizing the use of the torture technique called waterboarding.
The vote is shaping up as a test for Senate Democrats, who will have to choose between letting Donald Trump fill a key national-security post, on the one hand, and supporting basic human rights on the other.
Pompeo’s admission came in a written response to inquiries from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Asked if he would refrain from taking steps that would reintroduce waterboarding or other similar techniques, he replied that he would “consult with experts at the agency and at other organizations in the U.S. government” on whether the Army Field Manual — which currently establishes the legal limits of interrogation — should be changed. In other words, he’ll follow the law, but he’s open to changing it:
The nominee has in the past called CIA staff who engaged in waterboarding “patriots.”
Pompeo’s confirmation was originally going to be voted on Friday, but a small group of Democratic senators, led by Oregon’s Ron Wyden, objected. “No CIA director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day. The importance of the position of CIA director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated,” they said in a statement.
One senator has already pledged to oppose Pompeo’s confirmation. “At a time of massive attacks on privacy, I will strongly oppose Congressman Pompeo as CIA director,” Bernie Sanders announced on Friday.