CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks in Washington on Jan. 23, 2018. (American Enterprise Institute photo)

Pompeo Wants to Incentivize Some ‘Incredibly Audacious’ Intelligence Gathering

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the agency must “have a bias towards being as nimble as our adversaries,” or “we will serve America poorly and we won’t steal the secrets that our president and our senior policymakers most need at the most challenging times.”

Speaking Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the former congressman said he would want his legacy as director to be leaving behind a CIA as “agile and as speedy as we need.”

Pompeo said he’s also focused on ensuring the agency continues “to operate in a way that engenders the American people’s trust, so that those powers and authorities remain in place.”

Elaborating on President Trump’s intelligence briefings, Pompeo said the current commander in chief has a different “pattern of taking this information” than his predecessors, and the CIA team has to be “able to convince him that the facts we’re delivering impact his capacity to perform his mission.”

“I think the day that we can’t deliver that will be the day that it starts getting pushed off, and other things begin to occupy that time and space,” he added. “…We have to make sure that the information we’re delivering meets the threshold for the president of the United States and is delivered in a manner which he can grasp sufficiently to actually be able to act upon.”

The director said he’s using “incentives” to make his agency more aggressive.

“I’m an engineer by training — almost by definition, if you move out on the risk profile, you will increase the number of times you will have failure,” Pompeo said. “…We’re going to make sure that people aren’t punished for that, but they are, rather, recognized for having been professional, for having operated against the target set and having done something incredibly audacious.”

“And, if it turns out the coin just ends up tails instead of heads, so be it. We’re going go next day and go crush our adversary one more time.”

Pompeo stressed that good signals intelligence, mostly from partner agencies, “does not foreclose the absolute imperative that we continue to improve our capacity to collect human intelligence.”

The director said he made the counterintelligence mission center chief start reporting directly to him to send “a signal to two places: one, to our adversaries, that the CIA is going to be serious about protecting our stuff; and second, to my workforce, to know that the director was personally attentive to a mission that can fall too far down in the priorities scheme.”

He characterized today’s threats as “varied,” whether threats “from groups like Hezbollah or al-Qaeda, threats to our information systems from groups like WikiLeaks — they don’t have a flag at the UN, and they present real threats to the United States of America.”

In April, Pompeo declared it was “time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

“And so we need to make sure that our collection, the way we think about attacking our adversaries from an intelligence perspective, matches that. That means we have to go back and fix some of the rules, some of the laws that are designed to solve the nation-state challenge of history,” Pompeo said at AEI. “Cyber is another vector — it’s not a threat of its own, but it is a means by which many non-nation-state actors can inflict incredible costs on the United States of America. And we need to make sure that we are watching those actors in the same way we would a threat from a traditional nation-state.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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