The biggest security threats in the United States are the hardest to define

That makes two years since the heads of major US intelligence agencies last came to Congress for an update on global threats; they skipped 2020 in the middle tensions with former President Donald Trump. In the Biden administration, however, the public hearing was back on Wednesday. Their message: with extended crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, the most serious threats to US national security have evolved into complicated and interconnected specters that the intelligence community can only warn of.

During a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a report Released on Tuesday, the directors of the office of the director of national intelligence, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA and the FBI presented their agencies’ assessments. They highlighted cybersecurity and offensive hacking as a major topic in light of the SolarWinds attacks, which they strongly attributed to Russia. They also pointed to technological innovation, especially China’s advancements, which threaten to undermine the security of America’s infrastructure.

Administrators also pointed out that where authoritarian governments use technical digital control mechanisms, such as invasive surveillance tools, democracies struggle to emerge and endure. And as anti-democratic movements sweep the world and American adversaries like Iran and North Korea expand their digital and kinetic arsenals, the United States faces an increasingly complicated geopolitical climate. Lawmakers and the intelligence community have also raised the possibility that terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda will resurface following the planned US exit from Afghanistan in September.

After two years of absence from these public hearings, a power transition in the United States and the changing impacts of the pandemic around the world, the report and the audience appeared to be simmering with anguish at the scale and scale of the pandemic. the reach of so many vast and amorphous threats.

“Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the risks inherent in high levels of interdependence. And in the years to come, we believe the world will face more intense and cascading global challenges, ranging from disease and climate change to disruption caused by new technologies and financial crises, ” Congress Avril Haines, director of the ODNI. and the capacity of institutions and systems to respond is likely to grow and produce greater contestation. For the intelligence community, this idea forces us to broaden our definition of national security.

Complicating the challenge of new and emerging threats is the reality that all old ones remain. Administrators checked off updates on longtime adversaries of the United States as well as on global challenges posed by armed disinformation, attacks on electoral integrity, infrastructure security and growing domestic terrorism in the United States. United. And many discussions reverted to the issue of declining democratic influence.

“The problem of the erosion of democracies is very real in many parts of the world – those which have established democracies and those where democratic governance is quite fragile,” said CIA Director William Burns. “Part of that has to do, I think, at all levels with questions about the ability of democratic governance to deliver. The challenge is… to help restore that faith.

This tension between talk and deed was apparent in the Global Threats Report itself as well as in the hearing. Senators and agency directors focused on the “blind spot” of the intelligence community. Intelligence officials said the IC would benefit from better national internet access, signals from corporate networks and more information about individuals’ digital activities. The blind spot ”also concerns the long-standing debates about encryption and what the FBI calls the“ obscurity ”problem. During the hearing, NSA Director Paul Nakasone lamented the time taken to obtain warrants for some searches and said that American adversaries were all too aware of the time they have to work with. ‘they launch digital attacks like the SolarWinds hacking from within American entities.

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