If, as seems to be the White House’s plan, Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo is appointed to run the State Department and Rex Tillerson is booted out, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton is widely rumored to be the top choice to take over the CIA post. Arkansas law gives the governor, currently Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, authority to replace Cotton as senator until the 2018 election. Cotton’s Senate term lasts until 2020.
He could be the worst ever pick for the CIA job, even topping Allen Dulles, the longest-serving director, who was crucial to creating an agency devoted not just to gathering intelligence, but also engineering coups against elected governments like Guatemala’s in 1954, heightening citizen surveillance, meddling in elections such as Italy’s, supporting dictators friendly to U.S. interests but enemies of their own people, and plotting assassinations of foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro.
Cotton has supported waterboarding, imprisoning journalists, and an aggressive stance against Iran that includes trashing the nuclear agreement approved in 2015 by the United States, the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany, and Tehran. He has also proposed repeatedly bombing Iran to wipe out its nuclear infrastructure.
After James Risen and Eric Lichtblau at The New York Times belatedly exposed secret, warrantless surveillance by the government in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, then-Army Lt. Cotton wrote a never-published letter to the newspaper from Iraq, where he was part of the occupation forces:
“I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.”
Despite his Harvard credentials, Cotton was way off the mark about the legal ramifications of publishing classified material.