Pompeo & Haspel Shouldn’t Be Confirmed

March 22, 2018

Last week, President Trump's administration continued its hemorrhage of senior officials with the abrupt firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Whereas Tillerson often served as a moderate if impotent voice, seeking to help "evolve" Trump's views on Islam and a variety of other topics, his unceremonious ousting has set in motion a domino effect of far more xenophobic factions consolidating their influence within the White House. His proposed replacement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, has a lengthy history of cavorting with ardent Islamophobes, homophobes, among others. But Pompeo's own potential replacement at the CIA, Gina Haspel, would bring with her an entirely separate wave of problematic positions that should equally concern our nation. When the Senate takes up Pompeo's confirmation next month, they must firmly reject the further devolution of our nation's worldwide standing by preventing his and Haspel's nominations.

Pompeo's anti-Muslim and homophobic views are well-documented and dates back to his time as a Congressman from Kansas, when he regularly supported and did the bidding of the Southern Poverty Law Center identified hate-group, ACT for America. Pompeo hosted congressional briefings for the organizationand received their National Security Eagle Award in 2016. ACT for America's founder Brigitte Gabriel is infamous for her hatred of Muslims, saying that they "cannot be loyal citizens of the United States." Pompeo as the top diplomat for our country does nothing but further decrease our already low standing among the international community. How will he deal with other nations if his prejudice and bigotry supersedes his policies here at home?

Pompeo has also voiced support for one of Gabriel's top priorities, the designation by the State Department of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. As Secretary of State, Tillerson repeatedly pushed back against this proposal and was joined by a majority of policymakers and the very same intelligence agency that Pompeo himself was appointed to lead. The fear mongering around the Muslim Brotherhood by Gabriel and Pompeo's other close advisor, Frank Gaffney, is based on outright lies that have been thoroughly debunked, but mere facts have not stopped the Islamophobia industry from attempting to link nearly every American Muslim institution and leader in a vast web of imagined conspiracy. Their end goal is straightforward: nudge Pompeo as the new Secretary to follow through on his own desire to enact the terrorist designation and then launch a broadside attack on American Muslim civil society as a whole. Such an outcome would be absolutely disastrous and would rival McCarthy era tactics of the wholesale state-sponsored witch-hunt of an entire population.

As devastating as Pompeo’s confirmation would be, his intended CIA replacement has a disturbing (to say the least) background. Gina Haspel was appointed by President Trump as Deputy Director of the CIA last year amid vocal protests from members of the Senate (whose approval was not required for that position). Of chief concern was Haspel’s leading role in the CIA’s expanded use of torture, and the subsequent coverup of those operations. At a time when MPAC joined the majority of human rights advocates in condemning President Bush’s use of secret rendition practices, Haspel was busy overseeing those very same programs. Her history of pushing the limits of the Geneva conventions -and basic moral instincts- was already concerning when she was tapped for the number two role, but now becomes critical as she edges closer to taking control of the entire agency.

The good news is that this time Haspel must pass the Senate’s muster, as will Pompeo. Haspel’s confirmation is not a foregone conclusion and Democrats in particular may play an outsized role in deciding her fate. Even Republicans are raising concerns over her nomination, with Senator McCain (himself a victim of brutal torture) leading the chorus. While Pompeo’s confirmation hearings have been set for next month, Haspel’s are yet to be scheduled. This gives us a narrow window of opportunity to demand Congress prevent the twin specters of rabid bigotry and horrific human rights abuses from becoming our chief exports to the rest of the world.



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