Mind the Tech NYC
New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “Plays It Straight,” Says Former CIA Director James Woolsey
Mr. Woolsey, who headed the American intelligence agency in the years 1993-1995, spoke on Tuesday at Calcalist’s Mind the Tech conference in New York
On Tuesday, homeland security advisor and Former CIA Director James Woolsey commented on the appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to U.S. secretary of state, which was made known earlier that day. “He is a very able individual,” Mr. Woolsey said. “A candid man who is clear about what he thinks and ‘plays it straight.’ I think he will be a good secretary of state.”
Mr. Woolsey spoke at the Mind the Tech conference in New York, hosted by Calcalist in collaboration with Bank Leumi and the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage. Mr. Woolsey was interviewed by Nir Lempert, CEO of telecom, security and cleantech company C. Mer Industries Ltd. and a veteran of Israel's Unit 8200.
Mr. Woolsey headed the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1993 until 1995. In 2016, Mr. Woolsey became an adviser to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. He resigned from the White House in January after Mr. Trump publicly criticized the U.S. intelligence community.
On Tuesday, Mr. Woolsey was asked about President Trump’s recent actions, including his decision from last week to impose a tariff on steel and aluminum. “President Trump fulfills promises,” Mr. Woolsey said. “So even though there are a number of us, including most of his supporters, who were not pleased at all about the tariff decision, he was fulfilling a promise he made on the campaign,” Mr. Woolsey said, adding that while fulfilling promises is a good thing, “sometimes it is better to cut back a bit.”
What worries him, Mr. Woolsey said, is the president’s apparent tendency to make brisk decisions “in the middle of the night, while tweeting.” In this kind of job, Mr. Woolsey said, you do not want to make quick decisions, but rather consult advisors and consider every possible option, even if it takes days. “I hope very much that President Trump follows that path in any crisis in the future,” Mr. Woolsey said.
Asked to compare the challenges the intelligence community faced in the past with the challenges of cyber espionage today, Mr. Woolsey said that cyber warfare is changing constantly because things happen very fast. “The Russians had a disinformation program going back to the 1930s, which is essentially to disrupt the value system and the organizational structure of adversaries,” Mr. Woolsey said, referring to the alleged Russian involvement in the last U.S. elections. “It is important to realize that what has changed is not so much the substance but the speed, because cyber means you act and respond very quickly,” he said.
“You don’t get to sit and rest. You have to play offense not just defense, and it has to be smart, clever and crafty offense.”