WASHINGTON, D.C. Mike Pompeo sat down for his first media interview with Eyewitness News at the CIA headquarters. He talked with Michael Schwanke about the transition to his new role, top threats and his goals for the agency.
He says he felt a duty to serve when called, but also realized the many challenges ahead.
“The list was long, but I’d served on the oversight committee for the CIA for a handful of years so I had some sense and love for the place I was now going to get to lead,” says Pompeo.
A congressman from Kansas is now charged with protecting America, its secrets and those who serve.
“We have men and women deployed in the field today in places around the world fighting radical Islamic terrorism. We see the threat to the homeland as well," he says. We need a comprehensive strategy to keep America safe.To have the priority be that we don't have bad things happen in places like Wichita or Denver or the things we saw in San Bernardino.”
Pompeo, who previously had never been in the Oval Office, begins most days there.
“I spent some time in the Oval Office (March 20) with the president giving him his daily brief, something I do nearly every day as the director," Pompeo said.
He says despite reports that President Trump has been critical of U.S. intelligence agencies, their relationship is strong.
“I've seen the media narrative also and it's counter factual. My observation is the president loves not only the CIA, but the NSA and the folks in the intelligence community," he says. "Our relationship is good.”
When asked about what he sees as top threats to America, Pompeo pointed directly to North Korea.
“Well, we've got a fellow in North Korea who has worn out America’s strategic patience and for whom America is going to need to respond so he doesn't develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States. I would put that as a task one," Pompeo says.
He says terrorism continues to be the other priority.
“We are in the center of a fight against radical Islamic terrorism," he says.
Pompeo also takes over as the CIA makes headlines over the latest reports that WikiLeaks now has top secret CIA hacking information.
“I'd say just a couple things. Those who disseminate this type of information are not American heroes. In fact, they are people who are working against U.S. interests. It's not good, it's not good for the people of Wichita, Kansas or anyone else," he says.
He wouldn’t comment directly on the latest reports, but went on to say protecting secrets is critical.
“Second, I think our agency needs to do everything it can to keep those secrets safe at any time and for all time," Pompeo says. "So, without commenting on the release at this time, we have an obligation to make sure the information we have here is kept safe and doesn't end up in the hands of people who want to do America harm.”
On a personal side, Pompeo says leaving Wichita and his district has been difficult.
“We've now moved...we sold our home in Kansas. When I was a member of congress I came home every weekend and now I’m full time in D.C. So that's a big change," he says. Susan (Pompeo's wife) had lived in Wichita all her adult life this is the first time she's not lived there. So we're figuring out what it's like all the while with an eye to the day our duty here is complete. With a little bit of luck and opportunity, we'll make our way back to Kansas.”
Beyond that, Pompeo says it’s hard to say what’s next for him.
“If you'd ask me if I’d be sitting here today interviewing with you as the director of the CIA, even six or nine months ago, I would have chuckled. So only the Lord knows what’s next. Susan and I dearly miss Kansas already," he says.
Pompeo wrapped up the interview with his vision to “demystify” the agency and recruit talent from all walks of life.
“When one thinks about the CIA…everyone has seen the movies and people have a sense of what it might or might not be like. I will tell you for anybody thinking about what they want to do next in their life, if you are student in high school in Wichita or Kingman or in Greenwood County. If you’re in college at Wichita State or Butler Community College, this is a great career it's a great place to work.”