Iran’s attempts to assassinate former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are real and ongoing, his successor, Antony Blinken, told Congress on Tuesday.
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Testifying before a Senate panel, Blinken acknowledged details made public last month in a sensitive State Department report that outlined a security arrangement for the former secretary involving round-the-clock government protection.
“I’m not sure what I can say in an open setting, but let me say generically that there is an ongoing threat against American officials, both present and past,” Blinken said. “We are making sure and we will make sure for as long as it takes that we’re protecting our people, present and former, if they’re under threat.”
Pompeo, a former U.S. secretary of state and CIA director under President Donald Trump, was one of the architects of the Trump administration’s hardline approach to Tehran, reimplementing sanctions after the U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and supporting the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general.
All former secretaries of state automatically receive protection from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security for 180 days after leaving office.
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But Blinken has repeatedly extended that protection for 60-day increments due to “a serious and credible threat from a foreign power or agent of a foreign power arising from duties performed by former Secretary Pompeo while employed by the department,” according to the sensitive State Department report to Congress last month.
The department is spending over $2 million per month to protect Pompeo and one of his top former aides, Brian Hook, and have spent over $13 million to date, according to the report.
Blinken was responding to questioning from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who asked the secretary whether the Biden administration was requiring Iran to pledge “not to murder a former secretary of state.”
“They know what they’d need to do to address this problem, and that’s pretty straightforward,” Blinken said. “Within the context of any engagements we have, directly or indirectly with Iranians, one of the strong messages we send to them is, they need to stop targeting our people – period.”
The State Department did not respond to a request for additional comment. A representative of Pompeo did not provide comment.
The Biden administration has been concerned with the threats against Pompeo and Hook since January.
“Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said at the time. “As Americans, we have our disagreements on politics. We have our disagreements on Iran policy. But we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations. We are united in the defense of our people.”
Michael Wilner is McClatchy’s Senior National Security and White House Correspondent. A member of the White House team since 2019, he led coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Wilner previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post. He holds degrees from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a native of New York City. This article was originally published on McClatchy Washington Bureau.