National Security Chiefs Appear Before Senate Intel Committee

Canary. Photo by 4028mdk09.

On Tuesday, in what is considered a state of the union’s annual national security threat assessment in an unclassified, open-session briefing to the US Senate Intelligence Committee, “China and Russia are working together to challenge U.S. leadership in the world, undermine democratic governments and gain military and technological superiority over the United States,” Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats told the Senate committee, underscoring “the distance between the U.S. intelligence community and President Trump on several critical fronts,” the Washington Post reported.

According to Coats, “the two U.S. adversaries “are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.””

Among the witnesses who appeared alongside DNI Coats included Director of the FBI Chris Wray, Director of CIA Gina Haspel, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency General Robert Ashley, Director of the National Security Agency General Paul Nokasoni and Director of National GEO Spatial Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo.

After opening statements by ranking majority and minority chairs Sen. Richard Burr (NC-R) and Sen. Mark Warner (VA-D), respectively, Coats’, speaking on behalf of the assembled officials states in his opening remarks, in part, “my goal today is to responsibly convey to you and the American people in this unclassified hearing the true nature of the current environment,” adding that “we face significant changes in the domestic and global environment that have resulted in an increasingly complex and uncertain world and we must be ready, must be ready, to meet 21st century challenges and recognize the emerging threats.”

The composition of the current threats we face is a toxic mix of strategic competitors, regional powers, weak or failed states and non-state actors using a variety of tools in overt and subtle ways to achieve their goals.

The scale and scope of the various threats facing the United States and our immediate interests worldwide is likely to further intensify this year.

It is increasingly a challenge to prioritize which threats are of greatest importance.

Coats mentions “election security,” saying “this has been and will continue to be a top priority for the intelligence community,” adding that “we assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests. We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts in previous elections. On the heals of our successful efforts to protect the integrity of the 2018 midterm elections, we are now focused on incorporating lessons learned in preparations for the 2020 election.”

Turning to “a variety of threats that may materialize” in the coming year, Coats explains what he describes as, “the big four: China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.


Not for the first time, the US intelligence “has determined North Korea is not on a path to surrendering its weapons,” in what the Washington Post describes as an assessment that “threw cold water on the White House’s more optimistic view that the United States and North Korea will achieve a lasting peace and that the regime will ultimately give up its nuclear weapons,” ahead of a “planned summit meeting next month” between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The New York Times reported that a 42-page threat report released ahead of Tuesday’s testimonies – the annual Statement for the Record Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community by DNI Coats – “found that American trade policies and “unilateralism” – central themes of Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach – have strained traditional alliances and prompted foreign partners to seek new relationships.”

While trying to avoid answering directly about administration polices, the directors detailed “threats facing the United States, starting with cyberattacks and moving on to the endurance of the Islamic State and the capabilities of North Korea and Iran.”

Coats tells the Senate members “the Islamic State would continue “to stoke violence” in Syria,” that there were “thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria and a dozen Islamic State networks around the world,” in direct opposition to Trump’s pronouncement last via his social media Twitter “We have defeated ISIS in Syria…” before suddenly withdrawing from Syria, plunging the US Middle East strategy into chaos, “rattling allies like Britain and Israel and forsaking Syria’s ethnic Kurds, who have been faithful partners in fighting the Islamic State.”

Via C-SPAN, you can watch the US Intelligence witnesses testimony and lawmakers Q&A in full.

Stay tuned.

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