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Under Siege: CIA Chief Says Cooperation With Russia Is Critical for US Security

© Sputnik / Aleksey Nikolskyi / Go to the mediabankSeptember 19, 2017. Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin, left, and Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov before a meeting of the Military-Industrial Commission at the Almaz-Antey air defense system company
September 19, 2017. Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin, left, and Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov before a meeting of the Military-Industrial Commission at the Almaz-Antey air defense system company - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - CIA Director Mike Pompeo hit back at critics skeptical of recent meetings between US and Russian intelligence officials by saying such cooperation is critical to national security and puts less American lives at risk.

Earlier in the week, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service Chief, Sergey Naryshkin, recently held talks with counterparts on US soil, triggering a backlash from lawmakers.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer in a letter on Tuesday called on intelligence leaders to explain these meetings given their own assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

On Thursday, Pompeo struck back in a letter of his own, telling Schumer that there was nothing "untoward" about US and Russian intelligence officials meeting.

"While Russia remains an adversary, we would put American lives at greater risk if we ignored opportunities to work with the Russian services in the fight against terrorism," Pompeo said in the letter to Schumer.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo is displayed in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia - Sputnik International
CIA Would Put US Lives at Greater Risk if It Does Not Work With Russia - Pompeo
The head of the CIA explained to the Democratic senator that Moscow and Washington collaborate on aviation security and on preventing foreign fighters from going back to both Russia and the United States.

Pompeo underscored to Schumer in the letter that meetings with Russian counterparts are frank and focused on the most pressing matters.

"You and the American people should rest assured that we cover very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align," Pompeo said. "Neither side is bashful about raising concerns relating to our intelligence relationships and the interests of our respective nations."

Amid the uproar over Naryshkin’s presence on US soil, the State Department said it could not comment on how the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service obtained a visa to the United States when he has been sanctioned.

Meanhwhile, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Thursday explained to reporters that in certain situations exceptions must be made in the name of security. "If something is considered to be in the national security interests of the United States… we have the ability to waive [restrictions]," Nauert said. "It is no secret that despite our many many differences… with the Russian government, we also have areas where we have to work together, and one of those is combating terrorism."

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov. File photo - Sputnik International
Russia Does Not Aim to Meddle in 2018 US Election as CIA Chief Alleges - Envoy
Last month, Antonov told Sputnik that the United States and Russia should focus on enhancing their partnership in the fight against terrorism and improve the coordination between the intelligence services.

Besides enhancing the counterterrorism partnership on a bilateral level, Russia is interested in growing such cooperation in the context of Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative to establish an international counter-terrorism coalition, Antonov added. He emphasized that the United States and Russia have no obstacles for such cooperation against terrorism. He added the necessary regulatory framework for agreements that would ensure national security of both states has been created.

On December 15, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had prevented a terrorist attack by the Daesh supporters in Saint Petersburg. Russian authorities managed to seize the terrorists prior to the attack thanks to the information provided by US intelligence.

Shortly after the operation, Russian President Vladimir Putin called US President Donald Trump to thank him for the advanced warning the United States intelligence agencies provided to Moscow. Trump said US agencies were pleased to assist in preventing a terror attack.

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