THE U.S. HOUSE AND SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEES THREAT HEARINGS

Center for Security Policy, Washington DC, on February 7, 2014, reported on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees annual unclassified hearings on worldwide threats facing the United States. Testifying to the hearings were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Excerpts below:

All five witnesses stressed the increasing threat from a reconstituted and decentralized al-Qaeda organization which is expanding its influence, especially in Syria and North Africa. CIA Director Brennan warned about al-Qaeda activity in Iraq and Syria, telling the House Intelligence Committee: “We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad. There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by Al Qaeda to develop capabilities that are applicable, both in the theater, as well as beyond.”

The U.S. intelligence community sees growing risks from cyberwarfare because government and personal functions are increasingly tied to the Internet and potential offensive cyber operations by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, terrorist organizations, and cyber criminal organizations. U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia continues to target U.S. and allied personnel with access to sensitive computer network information. China is trying to weaken U.S. dominance of Internet governance while continuing an expansive worldwide program of network exploitation and intellectual property theft.

In response to questions by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), DIA Director Flynn discussed a recent damage assessment by his agency on the leaks of classified information by former NSA technician Edward Snowden. According to Flynn, the Snowden leaks will make it harder to detect IEDs threatening U.S. troops in Afghanistan, will put all U.S. servicemen at risk, and provided America’s adversaries important insights into U.S. military vulnerabilities. Director Clapper added that the vast majority of Snowden’s leaks probably had nothing to do with NSA programs.

These findings are important because they put the lie to claims by Snowden and his supporters that he only leaked information about NSA programs and was careful not to release information that would cost lives or endanger U.S. security.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), a liberal senator with whom the Center has rarely seen eye-to-eye on national security matters, surprised everyone at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing by supporting the NSA metadata program in its current form and opposing President Obama’s proposal to move the metadata database to private parties. Rockefeller said the metadata program, an NSA collection effort to gather telephone records, is an important counterterrorism tool and is already subject to numerous laws and regulations to ensure that it does not violate the privacy of Americans. Rockefeller said he opposes the president’s proposal to take the metadata database away from NSA and giving it to private parties because such a move would put this information in the hands of personnel subject to significantly less stringent security clearance rules than NSA personnel, resulting in serious privacy and security risks. The Center for Security Policy commends Senator Rockefeller for stating his strongly held views on the metadata program which are identical to a recent Center study.

With three exceptions, the members at both intelligence hearings were civil, professional and took seriously witness testimony about increased threats from terrorism, cyberwarfare, and leaks of U.S. intelligence. The three exceptions were Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Mark Udall (D-UT) and Senator Mark Heinrich (D-NM).

Instead of listening to the testimony about dire foreign threats facing this country, Wyden, Udall, and Heinrich took the nonsensical position that U.S. intelligence agencies are the main threat to American liberty..

The three senators represent a small minority who tried to exploit an open hearing because a bipartisan majority has repeatedly refused to support them in committee votes.

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