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Pompeo Pledges to Give Trump the Straight Dope on Cyber Threats

CIA Director-designate Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kan. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

CIA Director-designate Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kan. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. // Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency pledged to deliver the unvarnished truth about cyber threats to his future boss and other policymakers during a confirmation hearing Thursday.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., also pledged to pursue investigations wherever they lead, even if the CIA’s conclusions are damaging to Trump or his inner circle.

Pompeo’s confirmation hearing comes just two days after BuzzFeed News published an unverified and salacious report alleging Russian operatives fed information to the Trump campaign about his opponents during the election.

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Pompeo called the leak of that document disgraceful and stressed that none of its allegations has been substantiated, but also pledged to pursue any evidence that appeared to verify its claims.

“I promise I will pursue the facts wherever they take us,” he told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Pompeo, a member of the House Intelligence Committee as well as its subcommittees on the CIA and cybersecurity, also expressed confidence in the intelligence community’s conclusion that President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials were responsible for damaging leaks from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign aimed at boosting Trump’s electoral chances.

“Everything I’ve seen suggests to me the report is an analytical product that is sound,” said Pompeo, who attended a classified briefing on the intelligence findings with Trump last week.

Pompeo added later that the breaches had accomplished some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intended effects, such as sowing political discord and undermining confidence in democracy.

“I have no doubt the discussion that has been taking place is something Vladimir Putin would look at and say, ‘that’s among the objectives I had,’” he said.

Trump’s nominees have fallen into two camps thus far: those who express wholehearted confidence in the conclusions, such as Homeland Security Department nominee Gen. John Kelly, and those who hedge, such as Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.

Trump himself acknowledged Russia was the culprit for the first time during a news conference Wednesday, but pivoted quickly to the nation’s broader cyber vulnerabilities.

The president-elect previously argued there was insufficient evidence to attribute the breaches and that the intelligence community’s focus on them is politically motivated.

Pompeo does not believe the CIA’s findings were politically tainted, he said both in testimony and in a written questionnaire.

Pompeo defended Trump’s assertion in that questionnaire, however, saying it should be viewed within a context of “political attempts to roll back and undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect’s victory” and “inappropriate and misleading leaks” that have “created a sense of a more politicized intelligence environment.”

Pompeo did not commit to support end-to-end encryption systems under questioning from privacy advocate Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., but pledged to study the issue and present the CIA’s best assessment.

FBI Director James Comey and some congressional hawks have urged legislation helping the government crack through such encryption systems under certain circumstances. Most privacy advocates and tech companies say it’s impossible to undermine encryption in one case without weakening cybersecurity for all people. 

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