James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence
Current and Future Worldwide Threats
to the National Security of the United States
delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee
Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 9:30 a.m. EST
Room SD-G50, Dirksen Senate Office Building, U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe, and distinguished members of the committee, General Flynn
and I are here today to present the intelligence community's worldwide threat assessment, as we do every year.
I'll cover about five topics in approximately 11.5 or 12 minutes, followed by General Flynn's statement.
As DNI, this is my fourth appearance before this committee to discuss the threats we face. And, as
Senator Inhofe noted, I've made this next assertion previously, but it is, if anything, even more evident and more relevant today.
Looking back over my now more than half a century in intelligence, I've not experienced a time when
we've been beset by more crises and threats around the globe. My list is long. It includes the scourge and diversification of terrorism, loosely connected and globally dispersed, to include here at home, as exemplified by the Boston Marathon bombing and by the sectarian war in Syria, its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism and the potential threat this poses now to the homeland.
Let me briefly expand on this point. The strength of the insurgency is now estimated at somewhere between 75,000 to 80,000 on the low end and 110,000 to 115,000 on the high end, who are organized into more than 1,500 groups of widely varying political leanings. Three of the most effective are the AlNusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, as it's known, whose numbers total more than 20,000. Complicating this further are the 7,500-plus foreign fighters from some 50 countries who have gravitated to Syria. Among them are a small group of Af/Pak al Qaida veterans who have aspirations for external attack in Europe, if not the homeland itself.
And there are many other crises and threats around the globe, to include the spillover of the Syrian conflict into neighboring Lebanon and Iraq, the destabilizing flood of refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, now almost 2.5 million, a symptom of one of the largest humanitarian disasters in a decade.
The implications of the drawdown in Afghanistan: This year, as the chairman noted, is a crossroads, with the drawdown of ISAF, the presidential election, and whether the bilateral security agreement is signed.
Key to sustaining the fragile gains we've made is sustained, external financial support.
The deteriorating internal security posture in Iraq, with AQI now in control of Fallujah, and violence across Iraq at very high levels. More than 5,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2013, which is a made --made that year Iraq's deadliest since 2007.
The growth of foreign cyber-capabilities, both nation states, as well as non-nation states; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; aggressive nation state intelligence efforts against us; an assertive Russia; a competitive China; a dangerous, unpredictable North Korea; a challenging Iran, where the economic sanctions have had a profound impact on Iran's economy and have contributed to the P5- plus-1 joint plan of action; lingering ethnic divisions in the Balkans; perpetual conflict and extremism in Africa: in Mali, Nigeria, Central African Republic and South Sudan; violent political struggles in, among others, the Ukraine, Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh; the specter of mass atrocities; the increasing stress of burgeoning populations; the urgent demands for energy, water and food; the increasing sophistication of transnational crime; the tragedy and magnitude of human trafficking; the insidious rot of inventive, synthetic drugs; the potential for pandemic disease occasioned by the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
I could go on with this litany, but suffice to say, we live in a complex, dangerous world. The statements for the record that we've submitted, particularly the classified version, provide a comprehensive review of these and other daunting challenges.
My second topic is what has consumed extraordinary time and energy for much of the past year in the intelligence community, in the Congress, in the White House, and of course, in the public square. I'm speaking, of course, about potentially the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history by Edward Snowden, and the ensuing avalanche of revelations published and broadcast around the world.
I won't dwell on the debate about Snowden's motives or his legal standing, or on the supreme ironies occasioned by his choice of freedom loving nations and beacons of free expression to which he fled and from which he rails about what an Orwellian state he thinks this country has become.
But what I do want to speak to, as the nation's Senior Intelligence Officer, is the profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continue to cause. As a consequence, the nation is less safe, and its people less secure. What Snowden stole and exposed has gone way, way beyond his professed concerns with so-called domestic surveillance programs. As a result, we've lost critical intelligence sources, including some shared with us by valued partners. Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods, and tradecraft. And the insights they're gaining are making our job in the intelligence community much, much harder. And this includes putting the lives of members or assets of the intelligence community at risk, as well as those of our armed forces, diplomats, and our citizens.
We're beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of adversaries: particularly terrorists. A disturbing trend, which I anticipate will continue.
Snowden, for his part, claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished. If that's so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.
There's a third and related point I want to comment on the ensuing fallout. It pains me greatly that the National Security Agency and its magnificent work force have been pilloried in the public commentary. I started in the intelligence profession over 50 years ago in signals intelligence. Members of my family, my father, father in law, brother in law, and my wife and I, have all worked at NSA, so this is deeply personal to me.
The real facts are, as the president noted in his speech on 17 January, that the men and women who work at NSA, both military and civilian have done their utmost to protect this country and do so in a lawful manner.
As I and other leaders in the community have said many times, NSA's job is not to target the e-mails and phone calls of U.S. citizens. The agency does collect foreign intelligence: the whole reason that NSA has existed since 1952, performing critical missions that I'm sure the American people wanted to carry out.
Moreover, the effects of the unauthorized disclosures hurt the entire intelligence community, not just NSA. Critical intelligence capabilities in which the United States has invested billions of dollars are at risk, or likely to be curtailed or eliminated, either because of compromise or conscious decision.
Moreover, the impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified by the substantial budget reductions we're incurring.
The stark consequences of this perfect storm are pretty evident. The intelligence community is going to have less capacity to protect our nation and its allies than we've had in the past. In this connection, I'm also compelled to note the negative morale impact this perfect storm has had on the I.C. work force, which are compounded by sequestration, furloughs, the shutdown, and salary freezes.
This leads me to my fourth point. We're thus faced collectively, and by collectively, I mean this committee, the Congress at large, the executive branch, and most acutely, all of us in the intelligence community, with the inescapable imperative to accept more risk. It's a plain, hard fact and a circumstance that the community must and will manage, together with you and those whom we support in the executive branch. And if dealing with reduced capabilities is what is needed to ensure the faith and confidence of the American people and their elected representatives, then we in the intelligence community will work as hard as we can to meet the expectations before us.
And that brings me to my fifth and final point. The major take away for us, and certainly for me personally, for the past several months, is that we must lean in the direction of transparency wherever and whenever we can. With greater transparency about these intelligence programs, the American people may be more likely to accept them. The president set the tone and direction for us in his speech, as well in his landmark presidential policy directive, a major hallmark of which is transparency.
I have specific tasking, in conjunction with the attorney general, to conduct further declassifications to develop additional protections under Section 702 of the FISA act, governing collection of non-U.S. persons overseas to modify how we conduct bulk collection of telephone metadata under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, and to ensure more oversight of sensitive collection activities. Clearly, we'll need your support in making these changes.
Through all of this, we must and will sustain our professional tradecraft and integrity. And we must continue to protect our crown jewel sources and methods so that we can accomplish what we've always been chartered to do to protect the lives of American citizens here and abroad from the myriad threats I described at the beginning of this statement.
With that, I'll conclude my statement and turn it over to General Flynn. Mike.
"Snowden... rails about what an Orwellian state he thinks this country has become." -- James R. Clapper, DNI