The Senate Intelligence Committee held annual hearings this week on the nation’s most significant security threats, during which the Director of National Intelligence, along with the Directors of the CIA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency, gave testimony as to the state of the overall threat environment facing the country. The full hearing transcript can be viewed here.
Of particular note were statements made by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, regarding the ongoing terrorist facing the homeland.
According to Director Clapper, the Al Qaeda terrorist organization poses a greater challenge today than ten years ago due to the network’s franchises being much more globally dispersed, combined with increased knowledge of counter terrorism and surveillance methods gained, in part, from the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks.
“I have not experienced a time when we have been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.”
Director Clapper pointed out that Syria has become a significant location for independent or al-Qaida-aligned groups to recruit, train and equip a growing number of extremists to go back to their home countries and conduct terrorist acts. The U.S. intelligence community estimates that in excess of 7,000 foreign fighters have been attracted from some 50 countries. with approximately 1700 coming from Europe.
While the State Department has not provided estimates of how many Americans they believe have gone to fight with Syrian rebels, British defense consultant IHS Jane’s puts the number at a few dozen.
Security analysts fear more of those militants will tire of the battle against Syrian President Assad, whose government shows no signs of collapsing, and will take their newly acquired skills back to Europe or the U.S., where even a small bomb in a shopping mall can grab much greater headlines than the now-routine reports of car bombs in Syrian cities.
Regarding the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks, the witnesses individually and collectively delivered dire testimony on the impact of the revelations, saying that the lives of United States diplomats, citizens and soldiers are at risk, not to mention the overall ability of the government to properly protect the nation.
Director Clapper and his colleagues testified that the documents that have already been released to the media by Snowden during the last seven months have resulted in significant damage to national security because they exposed an array of sensitive intelligence gathering tactics that have been jeopardized as a result.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of the committee that Snowden’s actions have caused “grave damage” to national security and will someday be measured not in monetary figures, but by a body count.
“The greatest cost that is unknown today but that we will likely face is the cost of human lives on tomorrow’s battlefield or in some place where we will put our military forces when we ask them to go into harm’s way.”
AlertsUSA Threat Journal would like to remind readers that regardless of whether one views Edward Snowden as the patron saint of whistle blowers, a pretentious fool who has endangered the nation with his actions or somewhere in between, one fact remains undeniably clear: America does have enemies. There is tremendous evil our world and there are people, groups and nations, who, for whatever reason, desire to inflict harm on America and it’s citizens.
In this technological day and age, to suggest totally unwinding the nation’s electronic intelligence efforts is a foolish notion and reflects shallow thinking on the matter. Similarly, to allow unhindered domestic surveillance in the name of security and safety is also equally dangerous.
Where the balance is achieved is anyone’s guess. But what is known is that the singular starting point to a proper balance begins at the ballot box. Congress makes the laws, sets the boundaries and appropriates funding. As it is The People who decide the makeup Congress, careful selection of who gets your vote is essential.