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Pompeo confirmed as CIA head as Dems raise surveillance concerns

The Republican representative from Kansas who'll lead the spy agency has written op-eds calling for more data collection by the federal government.

US President Donald Trump's nominee for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) attends his confirmation hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee earlier in January.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Rep. Mike Pompeo will lead the Central Intelligence Agency, after the US Senate confirmed his nomination Monday evening in a vote of 66 to 32. Pompeo, a graduate of West Point and Harvard Law, currently represents Kansas in the House of Representatives.

Casting some of those no votes were senators who raised concerns over Pompeo's record of supporting increased government surveillance. Pompeo has supported rolling back reforms on US surveillance practices that were put in place after Edward Snowden's leaked NSA documents revealed spy programs that caught up US residents.

At his confirmation hearing, Pompeo also said he wanted to track information from social media accounts.

"We should be greatly troubled by giving power to a person who has stated flat out that he wants to expand the surveillance state, not rein it in," Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, argued to fellow legislators in the debate leading up to the vote.

The key reform to US surveillance practices at issue is the USA Freedom Act of 2015. Pompeo voted in favor of the law at the time, but has since voiced support for reinstating the powers the reforms limited, pointed out New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich.

"He believes that the US government ought to be collecting dramatically more private information from innocent Americans who are not -- not -- under investigation for a crime," Heinrich said.

Republicans were not receptive to these arguments, with Sen. John Cornyn from Texas criticizing Democrats for maneuvering to have the vote on Pompeo pushed to Monday. It was originally scheduled for Friday.

"But I just want to remind our colleagues that our country continues to face incredible threats, and they are not hitting the pause button," Cornyn said Monday.