By Fred Fleitz:
Over the last week, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees held their 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.
The news media’s treatment of the hearings was predictably poor and superficial. Here is what the Center believes are the top six take-aways that you need to know from these hearings.
1. A Growing Worldwide Terrorist Threat
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.”
2. Sharply Increased Risk of Cyber Attacks by State and Non-State Actors
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.
3. The Snowden Leaks Will Result in the Loss of American Lives
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.
Read more at Center For Security Policy