June 24, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed Peter Thomson, nominee to serve as Inspector General (IG) for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the need for IGs to serve as watchdogs for the American people, following the facts and the law even at the risk of telling the Administration difficult truths. During his questioning, Senator King urged Thomson to be strongly independent from any interference from the Administration.
“I think the IG position is one of the most important in our government, generally, but in this particular case it’s especially important because we’re dealing with a secret agency, which is an anomaly in a democracy,” said Senator King. “It doesn’t have the usual watchdogs of the press or of interest groups or of outside people who know what’s happening…there’s a special role here. And the other piece is the obligation, as you’ve acknowledged, of reporting information to this committee because we’re the only committee that follows what’s going on in those agencies.
“So I hope you appreciate that this is an extremely important position, and this President has made plain his desire to politicize the intelligence agencies, that he doesn’t like the intelligence agencies. The Vice Chair [Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.)] read off the list of all the people that have been removed. I guess all you can do is tell me that you’ll stand up to that, but I certainly hope that you will because it’s important for the country. Whether it’s this President – you may well be in the IG on another president – any president that’s trying to influence the preparation of intelligence is harming themselves and harming the country.”
A member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King has been a leading voice emphasizing the importance of independent IGs, who serve the people and not the President. Earlier this year, after the President informed Congress he intended to dismiss Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, Senator King criticized the move by stating, “When speaking the truth leads to potential retribution, we know less and are at increased risk; the world we live in is darker and more dangerous.” He similarly pressed Director of National Intelligence Nominee John Ratcliffe on the importance of independence in the Intelligence Community, stating that “If you give information to the President that isn’t accurate, that isn’t unvarnished – that is an act of disloyalty to the President, let alone to the Constitution.”