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Vulnerability and Prowess: Mike Pompeo meets the BBC

In this age of reality television (or televised unreality), the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was not going to miss out. Unlike other chief spies who operate in habitual darkness and moving shadows, Mike Pompeo was very keen to get his voice and opinion across on the British Broadcasting Service.

Pompeo specialises in seeing enemies everywhere, and to be fair, he is remunerated to do so. But he has taken his brief all too enthusiastically, seeing challenges to US hegemony at every corner, contenders for supreme power behind many an action. This, in one respect, is a re-enforcing phenomenon: the need for an intelligence service has been questioned at stages of US history, so its chiefs need to find reasons, however plausible.

It was only with the foundation of the US national security state and the arrival of the American imperium that a central intelligence agency was deemed necessary. The occasionally brutal mother of necessity dealt with the rest.

More has to be done, Pompeo insists, on combating covert Chinese influence through the world. (Shades of the Red Menace creep through the dialogue). No animosity is intended, merely that they need to be combated. And when required, the CIA will still supply, in an old age fraternal manner, assistance that might foil a plot. S. Petersburg is cited as an example, but that hardly means that all is well with the Russian services. “I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity.”

Threats require inflation and propping up. Small is truly ugly, with North Korea being elevated to the level of existential bogeyman. “We talk about [Kim Jong-un] having the ability to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States in a matter of a handful of months.”

The CIA’s role in this is distinctly hostile and averse to diplomacy. “Our task is to have provided the intelligence to the president of the United States that will deliver to him a set of options that continue to take down that risk by non-diplomatic means.” This provision has, in the past, been tantamount to feeding an administration a fictional text, based on what might be in order to avert what might come. It bears repeating: before Donald Trump, there were Weapons of Mass Deception; before this president, there was “fake” news.

For Pompeo, old patterns will supposedly repeat themselves. Adversaries will continue to chew around the edges of American power, gnawing in hope. Russia will do what it supposedly did in 2016: interfere in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Pompeo’s strategy here is elementary. The enemy must be deemed sufficiently serious to warrant concern, but not such as to justify the tag of invincibility. Interference may take place, but it will all be in hand. The good shall prevail.

“I have every expectation that [the Russians] will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.”

This will be so even if his employer, a certain Donald Trump, is sceptical that Moscow got its paws dirty to begin with. From the start, President Trump has insisted that Russian electoral interference was hardly worth a jot on the political landscape. “I don’t do fine lines,” returns Pompeo without a smirk of irony. “I do the truth.” That truth – “exquisite” no less – is delivered “everyday personally to the president”.

This is surely a tall order for a President who regards truth in the most relative of terms, the sort that are shaped according to circumstance and curious angle. But the CIA chief is keen to impress the BBC that Trump is “very focused in the sense that he is curious about the facts that we present. He is curious in the sense he wants to understand why we believe them.” A touch double-edged, given that Trump has had his beef with the CIA and its record in the past on matters factual and truthful.

Mindful of singing for his supper, Pompeo insists that Trump is very much present, engaged and committed. There is nothing of the unhinged nature being asserted in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. “The claim that the president isn’t engaged and doesn’t have a grasp on these important issues is dangerous and false, and it saddens me that someone would have taken the time to write such drivel.”

The paradox of such public pitches lies in their dual emphasis on vulnerability and prowess. Pompeo’s line runs something like this: the United States is vulnerable to virtually every body or entity, but also possesses the best counter-security measures of the globe. Given that the CIA has been asleep at the wheel on more than several occasions (remember the end of the Cold War or the planes of September 11, 2001?), prowess and proficiency have been periodically called into question.

Pompeo, however, is not interested in history when talking to the BBC. “We’re the world’s finest espionage service.” The CIA would continue to steal secrets and to “steal our secrets back”. The measure of his public engagement with the national broadcaster of a prominent ally is perhaps testament to how far things have fallen.


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  1. Keith

    A number of Psychiatrists and Psychologists have done the unethical procedure of assessing Trump’s mental state without interviewing him.
    Their views are far from complimentary in relation to his personality.
    Every week there are several occasions when spin needs to be employed by White House staff to hose down the “shithole” comments that Trump makes.

    Pompeo might try to white wash US past history in relation to present Chinese influence on the global scene; yet, it is no different than what the US has performed in the past. The Bush junior second war in Iraq continues to be a complete disaster.
    Currently it is a competition between Trump and Kim Jong un to see who is the maddest.

  2. Matters Not


    done the unethical procedure

    This claimed or implied unethical outcome sounds ominous. But are you referring to their intentions or perhaps the potential outcomes of their deliberations? Seems to me that they are not in the same ethical category. Perhaps it matters not?

  3. wam

    the man is like our dutton, ill equipped for the set task but zealous in his attempt to do the job.

  4. Keith

    Matters Not

    The Psychiatrists and Psychologists provide a diagnosis; the kind of issues involved are consent from “patient”, they did not have interviews with the “patient”, and confidentiality. They broke the codes of ethics of their respective professional bodies and they acknowledged having done so.

    They wished to show, I believe, that Trump was not suitable to be President.

    But, I think generally people realise that Trump is a dingbat.

  5. diannaart


    I would be surprised if Trump did NOT cheat at golf. Not unusual behaviour for a narcissist – IMHO, based on anything and everything I have heard him say – as for what he says in private??? Well, not exactly expecting a sensitive, poetic type.

    Anyway, the Guardian article went on to say that Clinton cheated at golf also, not surprised, although far more personable than Trump could ever be, Bill has never struck me as a man with a minuscule ego either.



    CIA TO FRAME RUSSIA. Mike Pompeo has stated with certainty that the Russians will interfere with the mid-term congress elections in the USA. How does he know this? Because the CIA intend to interfere with those elections and then blame and frame the Russians. Its obvious.

  7. Jack Arnold

    The USA (United States of Apartheid) have an underlying philosophy of generating fear in minority groups to maintain control and”security” for the benefit of the monied classes. The harsh reality is that the CIA and Homeland Security are the biggest threats to world peace, as shown by their respective track records over the past 40 years in Australia, Central America, South America, Asia (remember Vietnam?) and now the Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan). After 17 years of invasion in the Middle East there remains political instability, corruption and enormous US government spending on war materials for the benefit of the NE Military Industrial Complex. So follow the money when you want to know the answer.

  8. jimhaz

    I’m sure everyone has noticed how the US people are being setup yet again by the GOP and Bannon style media strategies. The GOP written memo about FBI non-bipartisanship will end up a complete dud in terms of its conclusions – but that will not actually matter in the slightest. It will be a fake fact memo. Republican inclined people and others will ignore the true contextual facts as they will have already decided it was PROOF the FBI is non-partisan and will always now view it as being evidence. It is the same sort of thing as occurred with the pre-election lies re Clinton Pizzagate.

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