No one would mistake U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, for an ally of President Obama. But on several key national security issues, Pompeo is an outspoken defender of the president’s policies and decisions.
Since February Pompeo has served on the House Intelligence Committee, making him a credible eyewitness to how the National Security Agency uses metadata about Americans’ phone calls and online activities. Leaked revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have raised constitutional concerns about the NSA’s data collection and mining.
But Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board last week that he knew about the NSA program before he joined the committee, and that everybody in Congress “could have known” about it. He said he’s open to considering changes but now fears the program is at risk. Lawmakers have debated whether to restrict the surveillance, and Obama said last week he wants to review and reform the NSA’s intelligence gathering.
“I think the program is incredibly important,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo also defended Obama’s recent decision to temporarily shut down 22 U.S. embassies. Though some Republicans, including Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, have said the shutdown made the administration look cowardly and weak, Pompeo said “the closing of the embassies was entirely appropriate.” All the embassies but one had reopened by Monday.
Pompeo disagrees with some of Obama’s national security positions and priorities. For example, Obama promised when first running for president to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but bipartisan opposition from Congress blocked that effort.
In recent testimony before a Senate subcommittee about his visit to Gitmo, Pompeo defended the treatment of detainees and argued the facility remains crucial to homeland security and fighting terrorism.
“You keep it open until you’re done,” he said.
Pompeo also expressed concerns that Obama is “giving up” on the good work done against al-Qaida over two administrations and so many years, questioning Obama’s language again last week about “ending a war responsibly” and recent reports that his administration wants to speed up the pullout from Afghanistan and pursue a “zero option” for troops beyond 2014. Pompeo said that what he’s seen is inconsistent with administration claims that al-Qaida is on the run.
Still, it’s good to see the two-term congressman, elected largely on his zeal to slash federal spending and regulations, find a role fitting his experience as a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer – one that doesn’t automatically find him at odds with Obama or otherwise walking a bright partisan line.