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FBI and Intel Chiefs Face Senate; Senate Intel Hearing. Aired 9:30-10:00a
Aired February 13, 2018 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Say in your mind about that as he sits here today?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, you know, these hearings typically start out focusing on worldwide threats in general, but then, you know, quickly hone in on whatever the issue of the day is. Today we have many issues of the day. And I think, first and foremost, as you mentioned, you know, there are the memos, there are the security clearance issues that we've talked about. And what I hope people don't lose sight of is the fact that a foreign adversary meddled in our election. So I hope that they spend a lot of time on that as well.
I suspect that the director will go into detail on those issues. He doesn't strike me as the kind of person who is going to get in a tit for tat or, you know, some kind of food fight with partisans. But I think that, you know, we can expect for him at least to tell what the bureau's side is in all of this. And, you know, again, a lot of this is not just for the public, but also for the rank and file.
BERMAN: Dana Bash, I was going through some of your greatest reporting hits. There are too many to list here. But it was last June where you and others reported that two of the people testifying here today, that would be Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, and Mike Rogers, the NSA director, that in closed door meetings with some of the senators who will be questioning them now, that they said that the president asked them to admit publicly or state publicly that he was not the focus of the Russia investigation and they felt uncomfortable. They thought it was strange that he was asking that, but they didn't feel pressured in any way.
That was last June. So much has happened since then, including them talking to the special counsel, we should say. You know, how do you see this going today?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they have been asked about that reporting in public and both of them have, in various way, punted the answers to that. It's funny, it was last June. It seems like, you know, a thousand years ago --
BASH: Because of the volume of really unbelievable news. I think that that could be a question. But I think the other issues
that we can't lose sight of is just yesterday the White House press secretary put the blame on Rob Porter's security clearance issues, on Jared Kushner's security clearance issues, on others, on the fact that there are some, according to CNN reporting, 30 people who are working with interim clearance, put the blame on the FBI and on the intelligence community.
Well, we know, because we have immediately done reporting and explained publicly that that's not how it works, that it is the White House that makes the decision on clearance after getting information from the FBI. So now you have the FBI director and the heads of the intelligence community in a public hearing. It would be hard to imagine that they don't correct the record and basically beat back that storyline coming from the White House.
BERMAN: And, Karoun, this is a chance for Democrats to make a political statement here, to make an argument, if you will, about where they see things going, not just in Russia, but also to Dana's point there, the security clearance issue now that's sprouted up at the White House. Where do you see Democrats going?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean you've seen on multiple fronts, whether it's the security clearances at the White House, or these questions of the memos, that Democrats and Republicans are engaged in a war of accusations over whether the GOP is trying to basically poke holes in and undermine the faith that people have in the FBI and the Department of Justice to do their jobs. So this is going to be, you know, Chris Wray is going to be in the hot seat for right now for many people that have criticism of the FBI, but he's also going to be there and be a figure that Democrats can point to and probably try to defend the FBI.
So you may see a lot more of this debate happening across either side of the dais than necessarily with the people who are there, the agency directors who are there to testify because, again, the parties are in open conflict right now over whether they think the FBI is doing a good job and whether they think that the problems that people are highlighting with the FBI go all the way to the top or not.
BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures right now. These intelligence officials have just walked into the room right there. This hearing will get underway very shortly.
The way this will work is we will hear from the chairman of the committee, the ranking member. We will also hear from the director of National Intelligence, who will walk us around the world to talk about worldwide threats to the United States.
And then the questions start. And once the questions start, whatever this hearing was supposed to be about, I think largely goes by the wayside.
Phil Mudd has parachuted in to this discussion, joins us right now mid talk. And, Phil, Dana was bringing up the idea of now, despite Russia,
despite everything else going on with the FBI, the issue of security clearances because of Rob Porter might be something that's focused on.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It is. But I -- if you're sitting in the chair as the FBI director, you can't take the bait. There's a couple of things that are going to happen -- be happening here. The first is, you're supposed to be talking about issues like North Korea, like Russia, like China. And I expect that's what the opening statement will focus on.
One of the interesting things to me, John, will be the contrast to just a few years ago when a lot of the focus would have been on counterterrorism. I think we're going to be something -- see something of a pivot. But watch Christopher Wray. I predict that his answers on questions, on things like the memo, will be short and will be fact- based. I don't think he's going to take the bait. That would be a mistake and I don't think he'll make that mistake.
[09:35:08] BERMAN: All right, Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, getting ready to speak any second now. Let's listen in.
RICHARD BURR, CHAIRMAN: And I'd like to welcome our distinguished witnesses today, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency General Robert Ashley, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Chris Wray, Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers, and Director of the Geospatial Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo.
We've got a long day in front of us and I thank all of you for being here. I know how forward you look to this one occasion on an annual basis.
BURR: Since 1995, this committee has met in open forum to discuss the security threats facing the United States of America. This has never been, nor will it ever be a comfortable conversation to have.
The threats this country face are complex, evolving and without easy answers. They exist in multiple domains. They're asymmetrical and they're conventional. They can be launched from across the ocean or be planned in the heart of our homeland.
Nonetheless, this conversation serves a vital purpose, and it's essential that it takes place in the public square with as much detail and candor as is possible. In my view, that is the true value and public service of this hearing. It provides the American people with insight that they just don't normally get.
Those insights are about the spectrum of threats we're up against as a nation. But, importantly, those insights are also about the work that the intelligence community does to push back on those threats.
This is work that both time -- are both time and labor intensive. It can be frustrating, heartbreaking and dangerous. It's often -- often thankless. But, because of the tireless dedication and patriotism of men and women who make up our intelligence community, it -- it gets done on behalf of the American people every single day.
To this point, I encourage all the witnesses this morning to not only address the threats to our nation, but to talk about what their organizations are doing to help secure this country, and -- to the degree they can in an unclassified setting.
Director Coats, your testimony for the record ties together the expertise, capabilities and wisdom of the entire intelligence community. I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with its content. It's lengthy and it's detailed and it's a testament to the broad range of talents that our I.C. brings to the table. It's also a compelling reminder of why this country invests so substantially in its intelligence apparatus.
Director Pompeo, when we held this hearing last year, I invited you to share your assessments of the things on the Korean Peninsula. I'm going to ask you again for your insights on the state of the -- North Korea's nuclear and missile program and, importantly, what's going on politically with North Korea's leadership.
Perhaps you can help -- help us differentiate between a genuine effort to reconcile with South Korea, and an opportunistic attempt to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.
General Ashley, the work just never seems to end for our Defense Department. I would value your latest assessment of the battlefield situations in Syria and Afghanistan. Last week, we had U.S. advisers and their Kurdish allies come under fire in eastern Syria. This prompted a retaliatory strike that killed dozens of pro-regime forces.
In Afghanistan, a string of terrorist attacks in Kabul left 150 dead last month, suggesting to me that, after 16 years of war, the insurgency is nowhere near folding and the government remains hard pressed to provide the security needed for its own people. I'd particularly value your unvarnished appraisal of where progress is being made in Afghanistan, and where it's not.
BURR: Admiral Rogers, cyber is clearly the most challenging threat factor this country faces. It's also one of the most concerning, giving how many aspects of our daily lives in the United States can be disrupted by a well-planned, well-executed cyber attack.
I'd appreciate your assessment of how well we're doing when it comes to protecting the nation's most critical computer networks, from the systems that guide our military, to the networks and ensure the nation's energy supply. They are all essential to a functioning -- functionality of a modern America, and I fear that they're increasingly vulnerable to state and non-state actors.
Director Wray, I'm keenly interested in hearing your assessment of the threat posed by the spread of foreign technology in the United States. This committee has worked diligently to sound the alarm bells when it comes to the counterintelligence and information security risk that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors. The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically, Chinese
telecom, like Huawei and ZTE, that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government. I hope you'll share your thoughts on this. And I also ask you to provide your insights into how foreign commercial investment and acquisitions are jeopardizing the nation's most sensitive technologies.
Lastly, I'd like to spend a moment on the counterintelligence threat to our national academic research and laboratory construct. What's the scale of the problem, and what's the FBI doing to fight it?
And finally, Director Cardillo, we've come to associate NGA with the modernization of the intelligence community. The adversaries of this country are investing and (ph) innovating faster and with fewer constraints than we are. The threats we face are multidimensional, decentralized and global.
NGAs play an essential role in -- in pushing the envelope with new ways of tackling problems, like having more data than you can feasibly analyze. As the I.C. edges closer to automation, machine learning and, eventually, artificial intelligence, the computer learning and computer vision work at NGA will be a bridge to help us get there.
I look forward to your thoughts on what's next at NGA and how the intelligence community as a whole can make better use of innovation and technologies to advance intelligence disciplines that have not changed much in the past 60 years. Our adversaries aren't going to wait for us to catch up.
I'll close there, because we have a lot to get to, but I want to thank you. And, more importantly, I want to thank those who are not here with you, those who carry out the lion's share of the work on behalf of the American people, the intelligence community. The folks you represent are important to this committee. We can't do our oversight without the work they perform.
Before turning to the distinguished vice chairman, I'd like to highlight for my colleagues we will reconvene at 2:30 this afternoon in a closed session to hear from the same witnesses in a classified setting. I would ask members to please reserve anything that remotely gets into a classified question for the afternoon session.
With that, Vice Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And let me also welcome all of you here and echo the chairman's comments. Thank you all for your service. And we hope you will convey back to all the brave men and women who work for you that this committee will always have your back.
I think this open hearing comes at an extraordinarily important time. Our nation's intelligence agencies stand at the forefront of our defense against continuing threats from terrorist groups, extremist ideology, rogue regimes, nuclear proliferation and regional instability.
WARNER: We all know -- and we've discussed this at length -- in recent years, we have also seen the rise of nations who view themselves at least as competitors, if not as adversaries of the United States. They began to use -- utilize new asymmetric weapons to undercut our democratic institutions, to steal our most sensitive intellectual property.
Let me start with Russia. Obviously, certain questions remain with respect to the true extent of the Russian interference in the 2016 elections. And we'll work through these -- continue to work through these in a bipartisan way on this committee.
However, I think you'll find a broad bipartisan consensus on this committee on a number of critical issues: First, that Russia engaged in a coordinated attack to undermine our democracy; second, that effort included targeting of state and local elections -- electoral activities in 21 states; and third, the Russian effort in a new (ph) area, utilized our social platforms to push and spread misinformation at an unprecedented scale.
Now, we've had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter further attacks. But I believe, unfortunately, we still don't have a comprehensive plan.
Two weeks ago, Director Pompeo directly stated that he (ph) has every expectation that Russia will try to influence our upcoming elections. Secretary of State Tillerson, just last week, said that we're already seeing Russian efforts to meddle in the 2018 elections. But I believe, in many ways, we're no better prepared than we were in 2016.
Make no mistake, this threat did not begin in 2016, and it certainly didn't end with the election. What we're seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions. And they're going to keep coming at us.
Despite all this, the president, inconveniently, continues to deny the threat posed by Russia. He didn't increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn't even tweeted a single concern. This threat, I believe, demands a whole-of-government response, and that response needs to start with leadership at the top.
At the same time, other threats to our institutions come from right here at home. There have been some, aided and abetted by internet bots and trolls, who have attacked the basic integrity of the FBI and the Justice Department. This is a dangerous trend. This campaign of innuendo and misinformation should alarm all of us, regardless of our partisan affiliation.
In addition to this ongoing threat from Russia, I'm concerned that China has developed an all-of-society -- not just all-of-government, but all-of-society approach to gain access to our sensitive technologies and intellectual property. I'm paying a great deal of attention to the rise of China's tech sector.
In particular, I'm worried about the close relationship between the Chinese government and Chinese technology firms, particularly in the area of commercialization of our surveillance technology and efforts to shape telecommunication equipment markets.
I want to ensure that the I.C. is tracking the direction that China's tech giants are heading, and especially the extent to which they are beholden to the Chinese government. In recent years, we've seen major technologies (ph) firms whose rise is attributed in part to the illicit access of U.S. technology and I.P.
These companies now represent some of the leading market players globally. Most Americans have not heard of all of these companies. But, as they enter Western economic markets, we want to ensure that they play by the rules. We need to make sure that this is not a new way for China to gain access to sensitive technology.
There are a number of other concerns I hope to raise, both in the hearing this morning, and in the closed hearing this afternoon. Let me just briefly mention two.
First, how is the I.C. poised to track foreign influence that relies on social media and misinformation? Just last week, the chairman and I had a good meeting with our U.K. parliamentary colleagues investigating this issue.
Russian trolls and bots continue to push divisive content, both in the United States, and against all our allies in Europe -- not only the U.K., but, as we've talked before, France, Germany, Netherlands. And we've also heard recent indications of Russian activities in Mexico. The I.C. needs to stay on top of this issue, and I'm worried that we don't have a clear line of assignment (ph).
Let me also raise another issue. I believe we need to do more to reform the broken security clearance system, which GAO recently placed on its list of high-risk government programs in need of reform.
We've seen close to 700,000 folks now waiting in line, folks that need to serve our country, whether in government or in the private sector, who have been just waiting way too long to get their security clearances. It's obviously hampering your recruitment and retention, and it's costing us -- costing us millions of dollars in inefficiency.
Again, thank you to all of you for your service. Please convey our best wishes to the men and women who work with you, and I look forward to our hearing. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BURR: Thank you, Vice Chairman.
I'm going to recognize Director Coats. And he is the only one who will give official testimony. All members of the panel are open for questions. I will recognize our members by order of seniority for up to five minutes.
With that, Director Coats, the floor is yours.
COATS: Mr. Chairman, thank you. I want to start by apologizing for my raspy voice. I've been fighting through some of the crud that's going around that several of us have endured. I may have to clear my throat a few times, which I apologize for. But it strikes me, listening to your opening remarks and the vice
chairman's opening remarks, that -- excuse me -- that we have continued to have a very interactive presence with this committee.
This -- issues that you and the vice chairman have raised and that others will raise -- are issues that we talk about continuously with you, and we want to continue to work with you carefully, by -- both sides of the aisle here -- as we go forward, looking at what the intelligence community can provide for this committee and the issues that we find in common.
Vice Chairman Warner, members of the committee, we thank you for the opportunity to be with here -- you here today.
There have been some changes on the panel since we were here last year. This will be Admiral Rogers's last visit before this committee on the threat assessment issue. He deeply regrets not having to come before you in the future years...
... as he's enjoyed this process very much.
BURR: Considering emeritus status so that he can be annually invited back.
COATS: We have two new members, Director Wray and General Ashley, who have been looking forward to this day, I'm sure, with great anticipation. And so I say all that because what you are looking at here is a team; a team that works together in terms of how we provide the American people and our Congress and policymakers with the intelligence that they need.
So it's an honor for us to be here. And I think this team reflects the hard work of the intelligence community in their testimonies and their answers to questions today.
Before I begin the sobering portion of my remarks, I'll -- let me take a moment to acknowledge a positive development for intelligence community and express our thanks to members of this committee for their support in the renewing of the authorities -- the recent 702 authorization.
This is, as we have told you, our most important legislative issue, because it is our most important collection issue against foreign terrorists and threats to America. And we appreciate the work that the committee has done and others have done and, particularly, this team has done in reaching -- in reaching that goal.
As you will hear during these remarks, we face a complex, volatile and challenging threat environment. The risk of inter-state conflict is higher than any time since the end of the Cold War, all the more alarming because of the growing development and use of weapons of mass destruction by state and non-state actors. Our adversaries, as well as the other malign actors, are using cyber and other instruments of power to shape societies and markets, international rules and institutions, and international hotspots to their advantage.
We have entered a period that can best be described as a race for technological superiority against our adversaries, who seek to sow division in the United States and weaken U.S. leadership. And non- state actors, including terrorists and criminal groups are exploiting weak state capacity in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, causing instability and violence both within states and among states.
In the interest of saving time for your questions, I will not cover every topic in my opening remarks. I think that will be a relief to the committee. We are submitting a written statement, however, for the record, with additional details.
Let me turn to global threats, and I'd like to start with cyber -- the cyber threat, which is one of my greatest concerns and top priorities. Frankly, the United States is under attack -- under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States. From U.S. businesses, to the federal government, to state and local governments, the United States is threatened by cyber attacks every day.
While Russia, China, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest cyber threats, other nation-states, terrorist organizations, transnational criminal organizations and ever more technically capable groups and individuals use cyber operations to achieve strategic and malign objectives.
Some of these actors, including Russia, are likely to pursue even more aggressive cyber attacks with the intent of degrading our democratic values and weakening our alliances. Persistent and disruptive cyber operations will continue against the United States and our European allies, using elections as opportunities to undermine democracy, sow discord and undermine our values.
Chinese cyber espionage and cyber attack capabilities will continue to support China's national security and economic priorities. Iran will try to penetrate U.S. and allied networks for espionage and lay the groundwork for future cyber attacks. And North Korea will continue to use cyber operations to raise funds, launch attacks and gather intelligence against the United States.
Terrorists will use the Internet to raise funds and promote their malign messages. Criminals will exploit cyber tools to finance their operations.
My next topic for you is weapons of mass destruction, the WMD. Overall, state efforts to modernize, develop or acquire WMD, their delivery systems or the underlying technologies constitute a major threat to the United States and to our allies.
North Korea will be the most volatile and confrontational WMD threat in the coming year. In addition to its ballistic missile tests and growing number of nuclear warheads for these missiles, North Korea will continue its longstanding chemical and biological warfare programs, also.
Russia will remain the most capable WMD power, and is expanding its nuclear weapon capabilities. China will continue to expand its weapons of mass destruction options and diversify its nuclear arsenal. Iran's implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, has extended the time it would take to develop a nuclear weapon from several months to about a year, provided Iran continues to adhere to the deals of major provisions.
Pakistan is developing new types of nuclear weapons, including short- range tactical weapons. And state and non-state actors, including the Syrian regime and ISIS -- the remnants of ISIS in Syria, continue to possess and, in some cases, have used chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq, and we continue to be concerned about some of these actors' pursuit of biological weapons.
Turning now to terrorism, the terrorism threat is pronounced and spans the spectarian (ph) -- sectarian spectrum, from ISIS and Al Qaida, to Lebanese Hezbollah and other affiliated terrorist organizations, as well as the state-sponsored activities of Iran.
U.S.-based homegrown violent extremists have -- including inspired and self-radical (ph) individuals, represent the primary and most difficult to detect Sunni terrorism threat in the United States.
ISIS's claim to having a functioning caliphate that governs populations is all but thwarted. However, ISIS remains a threat and will likely focus on regrouping in Iraq and Syria, particularly in ungoverned portions of those countries, enhancing its global presence, championing its cause, planning international attacks and encouraging members and sympathizers to attack their home countries.
Meanwhile, Al Qaida almost certainly will remain a major actor in global terrorism as it continues to prioritize (ph) a long-term approach and the organization remains intent on attacking United States and U.S. interests abroad.
Now, moving on, as if we don't have enough threats here on earth, we need to look to the heavens -- threats in space. The global expansion of the space industry will extend space-enabled capabilities and situational awareness to nation-state and commercial space actors in the coming years.
COATS: Russia and China will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications and navigation systems in terms of numbers of satellites, breadth of capability and applications for use.
And both Russia and Chinese counter-space weapons will mature over the next few years as each country pursues anti-satellite weapons as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness and perceptions of U.S. military advantage in space.
And the final topical -- functional topic is transnational organized -- organized crime, which poses a growing threat to U.S. and allied interests.
[10:00:00] DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: These criminal groups will supply the dominant share of illicit drugs fueling record mortality rates among our population. They will continue to traffic in human life. They will deplete national resources.