Return to Transcripts main page
Intel Chief: Spying in Space, Space Weapons a Growing Threat; FBI & Intel Chiefs Senate Intel Committee. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired February 13, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 and siphon money from governments and the global economy.
I'd like, now to briefly go around the world on reasonable topics starting with East Asia. If you went out and hired a private plane, and launched it from Los Angeles, and went around the world and stopped at every hot spot in this world, you would make multiple dozens of stops. That's the kind of threat that we face. But let me start with East Asia.
North Korea continues to pose an ever more increasing threat to the United States and its interests. Pyongyang has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to negotiate its nuclear weapons and missiles away because the regime views nuclear weapons are critical to its security. Kim also probably sees nuclear ICBMs as leverage to achieve his long- term strategic ambition to end Seoul's alliance with Washington and to eventually dominate the Peninsula.
In the wake of the ICBM test last year, we expect to see North Korea press ahead with additional missile tests this year and its foreign minister has threatened an atmospheric nuclear test over the pacific. Pyongyang is committed to filling a long-range nuclear arm missile capable of posing a direct threat to the United States and modest improvements in North Korea's conventional capabilities will continue to pose an ever greater threat to South Korea, Japan, as well as U.S. targets in those countries.
China will increasingly seek to expand its regional influence and shape events and outcomes globally. It will take a firm stance on its claims to the East China Sea and South China Sea, its relations with Taiwan and its regional economic engagement. China also intends to use its one belt, one road initiative to increase its reach to geostrategic locations across Eurasia, Africa, and the Pacific.
From East Asia, we head to South Asia. In Afghanistan, Kabul continues to bear the brunt of the Taliban led insurgency as demonstrated by recent attacks in the city. Afghan National Security Forces face unsteady performance, but with coalition support probably will maintain control of most major population centers. Complicating the Afghanistan situation, however, is our assessment that Pakistan-based militant groups continue to take advantage of their safe haven to conduct attacks in India, in Afghanistan, and including U.S. interest therein. Pakistani military leaders continue to walk a delicate line, ongoing.
Pakistani military operations against the Taliban and associated groups probably reflect a desire to appear more proactive and responsive to our requests for more actions against these groups. However, the actions taken thus far do not reflect a significant escalation of pressure against these groups and are unlikely to have a lasting effect. In the last month, the administration has designed -- excuse me, designated eight militants affiliated with the Taliban, Haqqani network and other Pakistani militant groups. And we assess that Pakistan will maintain ties to these militants while restricting counterterrorism, cooperation with the United States.
Next is Russia, where President Putin will continue to rely on assertive foreign policies to shape outcomes beyond Russia's borders. Putin will resort to more authoritarian tactics to remain in control amid challenges to his rule. With respect to Russian influence efforts, let me be clear, the Russians utilize this tool because it is relatively cheap, it is low risk, it offers what they perceive as plausible deniability, and it is proven to be effective at sowing division. We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and other means to influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and as bait social and political fissures in the United States. There should be no doubt that Russia perceive that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.
[10:05:04] From Russia I'll turn to the Middle East and North Africa. This region will be characterized by political turmoil, economic fragility, and civil and proxy wars in the coming year. Iran will remain the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism and adversary in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Iran will seek to expand its regional influence and will exploit the fight against ISIS to solidify partnerships and translate battlefield gains into political security and economic agreements. We also assess that Iran will continue to develop military capabilities that threaten U.S. forces and U.S. allies in the region.
For example, Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps maybe in its unsafe and unprofessional interactions pose a risk to U.S. naval and allied naval operations in the Persian Gulf. And Lebanese Hezbollah with the support of Iran has deployed thousands of fighters to Syria and provides direction to other militant and terrorist groups all fomenting regional instability. Iran's provocative and assertive behavior as we saw most recently this past weekend in northern Israel increases the potential for escalation.
Turkey will seek to thwart Kurdish ambitions in the Middle East and the ongoing Turkish incursion into northern Syria is complicating ongoing counter-ISIS activities in the region and increases the risk to U.S. Forces located in the area. Syria will face unrest and fighting through 2018, even as Damascus recaptures urban areas and violence decreases in some areas.
Iraq is likely to face a lengthy period of political turmoil and conflict. The social and political challenges that gave rise to ISIS remain and Iran has exploited those challenges to deepen its influence in Iraq's military and security elements and diplomatic and political arms.
The war in Yemen between the Iranian backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition is likely to continue and will worsen the already tragic humanitarian crisis for 70 percent of the population of about 20 million people in need of assistance. The situation in Yemen is emblematic of the far larger problem, the number of people displaced by conflict around the world is the highest that it has been since the end of World War II.
Turning to Europe, where I want to draw your attention to two significant developments that are likely to continue to impact European politics and foreign policy in the coming year, let me state first the continent's center of gravity appears to be shifting to France, where President Macron has taken a more assertive role in addressing European and global challenges. Results of the recent German election, I think, enforce that assessment.
Second, recent efforts by some governments in Central and Eastern Europe to undermine judicial independence and parliamentary oversight and increase government control over public media are weakening the rules of law. These steps could presage further democratic decline and offer opportunity for Chinese and Russian influence.
There are many more topics I could discuss. I haven't even gotten to the western hemisphere or Africa. But I would like to close with a discussion of one additional threat, this one internal and somewhat personal. I'm concerned that our increasing fractious political process, particularly with respect to federal spending is threatening our ability to properly defend our nation, both in the short-term and especially in the long-term. The failure to address our long-term fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over 20 trillion and growing. This situation is unsustainable as I think we all know and represents a dire threat to our economic and national security.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen first identified the national debt as the greatest threat to our national security. Since then, he's been joined by numerous respected national security leaders of both parties, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger as well as former defense secretaries Bob Gates and Leon Panetta. And our current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis agrees with this assessment.
Many of you know I have spent a lot of time in my last term in the Senate work on this issue and unfortunately the problem continues to grow. So I would urge all of us to recognize the need to address this challenge and to take action as soon as possible before fiscal crisis occurs that truly undermines our ability to ensure our national security.
[10:10:08] With that, I and the rest of the panel are happy to take your questions. We appreciate the opportunity to be with you today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you very much, for that very thorough overview of the world and what is at play. I'll recognize members based on seniority for up to five minutes. The chairman recognizes himself. Admiral Rogers, according to the statement for the record, the most detected Chinese cyber operations against the United States private industry are focused on clear defense contractors or IT and communications firms whose products and services support government and private sector networks nationwide. Rate the Intelligence Community's performance when it comes to notifying clear defense contractors and other sensitive private sector actors about malicious cyber activities on their networks.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: So, first of all, you're asking many to rate a function for which I don't have responsibility or day to day execution so I'll give you the thing but it's not informed by day to day experience per se. This is an issue as NSA and cyber command I try to work very aggressively. As you have outlined, this is a tremendous concern for us as a department.
Clearly, I think we are not where we need to be. The challenge I think is we have got multiple areas of knowledge and insight across the federal government, within the private sector and how do we bring this together and integrate a team with some real time flow back and forth? That is not where we are today. That's where we got to get to.
BURR: In your estimation are we doing enough to warn the private sector of the threat that is out there?
ROGERS: I think we are informing them as we become aware of it, but one of my concerns is we're only going to see one slice of this picture. I'm also interested in from the private sector's perspective, tell us what you are seeing and if we can bring these two together, we'll have such a broader perspective and much more in depth knowledge of what is happening. I think that's part of this. It is not just one side needs to do a better job. But I think it's our ability to bring us together as a team.
BURR: Given that you've seen the difficulty especially of this committee and the Intelligence Committees had with communicating with tech companies about a way forward that is in commonality. Are you concerned at how this is going to become an increasingly challenging landscape for both Congress and for the Intelligence Community working as we see new tech firms emerge every day in.
ROGERS: Yes, I am. Quite frankly I wonder how bad does this have to get before we realize we have to do some things fundamentally differently. And I would argue if you look at the Internet of things, you look at the security levels within those components, folks, this is going to -- we think the problem is a challenge now, but we just wait, it is going to get much, much more, exponentially from a security perspective.
BURR: Director Pompeo, the ISIS asses that North Korea is likely to press ahead with more tests in 2018, missile tests. Noting that North Korea's foreign ministry indicated an atmosphere nuclear test over the Pacific may be under consideration in Pyongyang. What is the IC assess the regional reaction to this kind of test would be in.
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Senator, thank you for the question. And if I may just take one minute to say I've been doing this a year now I want to express my appreciation to this committee for helping the CIA do the things that it needs to do, providing us the resources and authorities we need. We have put a lot of effort against this very problem. You've all been incredibly supportive of that. So my team thanks you for that.
We think a test like that would certainly further unite the region, having said that our sense is that we have built a global coalition pushing back against Kim Jong-un and his terror regime. With respect to what each particular country might do, I prefer to keep that conversation to closed session this afternoon.
BURR: Great. What is the IC's assessment of North Korea's willingness to employ its expansive conventional military capabilities? Senator, one thing that Director Coats referred to in his opening remarks is that Kim Jong-un remains not only intent on staying in power, that the thing all dictators prefer to do, die in their sleep fully at the peak of their power. But he has a submission as a long-standing North Korean idea of unification and their capacity to use a nuclear umbrella combined with their conventional forces to exert coercive behavior certainly inside their country, certainly against South Korea, but more broadly something our analysts are continuing to lack at. We can see as they ratchet up their nuclear capability making a response more difficult, their capacity to do harm in the region as a result of their incredible conventional capabilities alone increases.
[10:15:14] BURR: Probably for General Ashley and Admiral Rogers, according to statement for the record, the widespread proliferation of artificial intelligence is likely to prompt new national security concerns. How is the IC accounting for the possibility that these new national -- of these new national security concerns, are we seeing indications now that our adversary is working to harness technologies like artificial intelligence and as the IC looking to maximize the potential of emerging technologies in our own processes and analysis of data and intelligence?
LT. GEN. ROBERT ASHLEY, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: If I could take the first shot at that one, you look at DIA and thanks for all the support that the committee provides to the defense intelligence agency, if you look at our coordination, you look at foreign militaries and the operational environment, so this is central to looking at doctrine and what they're developing, you think about artificial intelligence, our near peer competitors, our pursuing this and it is commercial technology that is available. But you look at the volume and big data and what is available, the ability to digest and pull all that information in, artificial intelligence will be integral to that.
As an example of one of the projects we work on, at the open source level, Project Maven. You look at full motion video, for example, social media, full motion video you're never going to be able to afford the workforce that is going to be able to go through all the material, whether it is video, whether it is what Admiral Rogers works in the way of intelligence or what is available on the social media. So artificial intelligence, machine learning, which is really where we are now, more mesh learning than it is artificial intelligence. We're seeing all of our competitors invest in these kinds of technologies because it is going to get them to decision cycles faster, allow them to digest information in greater volumes and have a better situational understanding of what is happening in the battle space and just what is happening in the strategic environment.
BURR: I would agree with General Ashley and highlight every organization on this table is faced with the challenge of victims of our own success in some ways. The ability to access data at increased levels brings its own set of challenges. We're collectively all attempting to deal with this. When I look at potential adversaries, I see them going through the same set of challenges I would argue when I look at the PRC in particular there is a national strategy designed to harness the power of artificial intelligence to generate strategic outcomes, many along the lines that General Ashley highlighted to generate positive outcomes for them.
If you look at their research, you look at how it is affecting the amount of data they're going after. I can remember five, ten years ago, looking at some data concentrations and thinking to myself, this is so large and has such a disparate amount of information in it, boy, it would be really difficult for an opponent potentially to generate insight and knowledge from it. I don't have those kinds of conversations anymore. With the power of machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data analytics, data concentrations now increasingly are targets of attraction to a whole host of actors. You have watched the PRC and others engage in activity designed to access these massive data concentrations.
ASHLEY: If I could follow up on that one also, this is one of those areas that is available in the commercial industry so you see a lot of investment, academia and others, that are pursuing this. So there is a key piece of this, I think it is worth addressing as well, which is how do you operationalize it. So you go back and if I could just use kind of a World War II example, the fact that there were planes, radios and tanks was not unique to the Germans in World War II. What they did is they came up with an operational concept and allowed them to leverage that.
And Peter Singer, if anyone ever read wire for war, ghost fleet, a futurist, and we set a panel with him a couple of years ago. And it was interesting when I asked him as you look at the things that are emerging, the technology and things that are coming out, what do you see in the way of breakthrough that gives somebody a really marked advantage? And Peter's comment wasn't that I see something, give someone such a marked advantage, it is who is able to harness it, who is able to operationalize it and put it to effect. That's really key differences. A lot of that technology is going to be available globally.
COATS: Thank you. If I could ask you permission here, Robert Cardillo agency NGA has probably taken some very significant lead on this given the enormous volume of collection that they take and the inability to process that through the use of humans. Robert - I've asked Robert to be prepared to answer that question for you because I think they're taking some leading efforts that might be helpful.
ROBERT CARDILLO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Great. I think it is important to note at the front what hasn't changed quite frankly. The mission, the responsibility, this whole table has is to provide you with the decision advantage.
[10:20:02] What changed is the world around us and now within us. And so what we used to hold exclusively because we had capabilities that others didn't is now more shared and so as Admiral Rogers said, this is something we all lock arms on because it isn't the access that is exclusive anymore, it is the use. It is the concept of operations as General Ashley said.
I have the same concerns you do about getting the cooperation we need from these companies. I'm rather optimistic about it because I think at the end of the day, we can advance the American economy, we can advance the American entrepreneurial ship and we can advance our understanding of the world in a way that gets back to that first step, which is decision advantage.
BURR: Rest assured processing of data will come up in our closed session with you. I've got you targeted. Vice chair.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you Mr. Chairman, I take with some note the fact that the ODNI director started his discussion with cyber. It is very telling in terms of how we view worldwide threats. One question out on the record, we all know it has been over a year since the Russian intervention in our 2016 elections. We also have seen Russia intervene in a number of other western democracies. I'd like each of you to briefly reconfirm to the American public that our Intelligence Community understands this threat.
Last year, those of you on the panel, each expressed confidence in the January 2017 IC assessment that Russia interfere in the 2016 elections. I'd like each of you today to reaffirm that and also simple yes or no, do you agree with Director Pompeo that we haven't seen a significant decrease in the Russian activity, and we have every expectation, Director Coats you have alluded to this, that they will continue to intervene in our elections in 2018 and 2020. Start with you, Director, simple yes or no will do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No change in my view of the 2017 assessment. I support that and I agree with Director Pompeo's assessment about the likelihood of the 2018 current as well.
ROGERS: Participated in that 2017 work, I stood by it then, and I stand by it now and I agree with Director Pompeo, this is not going to change or stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not going to change nor is it going to stop.
COATS: Throughout the entire community, we have not seen any evidence of any significant change from last year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with Director Pompeo.
BURR: You've been waiting for that answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have. I've had that one in the pocket for a while, yes, sir.
WARNER: As do I. One area that I think we were a little all caught off guard on, and to a degree understandably was how the Russians use social media. And I realize this is a new area for all of us and there are legitimate issues around American civil rights that have to be balanced. But the fact is I think we have to have an organized plan going forward. This question will be directed at DNI Coats and Director Wray, but if others want to weigh in. I'm -- because the notion that these companies while may be located here, operate in cyberspace and we have somebody masquerading as Mike Pompeo but is actually Boris Bagnov in St. Petersburg, it doesn't fit neatly into a particular flow chart. Director Coats and Director Wray, who is in charge of addressing the threat posed by foreign nationals and foreign nations in terms of their use and misuse of social media?
COATS: There is no single agency, quote, "in charge." There are several agencies throughout the federal government that have equities in this. And we are working together to try to integrate that process. Clearly is something that needs to be addressed and addressed as quickly as possible. You and I have had a number of discussions about that.
And so we are keen on moving forward in terms of not only identification, but relative response and things that we can do to prevent this from happening. We are gaining more, I think, support -- I guess is the right word from the private sector who are beginning to recognize ever more the issues that are faced with the material that comes through their processes. We cannot, as a government, direct them what to do. But we are certainly spending every effort we can to work with them to provide some answers to this question.
[10:25:10] CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I would agree with Director Coats. I think it is a team effort. One of the things that really jumped out at me since being back in government is how much more of a team the Intelligence Community is than the last time I was in this space. I have one of Mike's people who sits right, you know, in my inner team and vice versa and we're dealing with each other every day. So it is teamwork within the Intelligence Community and partnership with the private sector which is, I think, the other big change I've noticed, a lot more forward leaning engagement with the private sector in terms of trying to share information and raise awareness on their end because at the end of the day, we can't fully police social media, so we have to work with them, so that they can police themselves a little bit better as well.
WARNER: I think the companies themselves are slow to recognize this threat. I think they have still got more work to do. But the fact that we don't have clarity in terms of who is in charge means we don't have a full plan. Let me get one last question and quickly on the rise, Chairman alluded to this as well, the rise of Chinese tech companies and my fear is that some of these Chinese tech companies may not even have to inquire an American company before they become pervasive in our market. I'll start with Director Coats and Director Wray. How do we make sure we send a signal to the private sector before some of these committee -- some of these companies in effect totally invade our market, particularly because so many are tied back to the Chinese government.
COATS: I think it is not only sending the signal and working together, sharing information with the private sector and the public sector. It also, I think, involves a whole -- almost a whole government issue, particularly legislative, with the legislation that is being looked at I terms of the process. I think we need to go beyond what the current process is in terms of evaluating. We as a community will coordinate our intelligence to provide policymakers and those that are making these decisions with the best intelligence we can relative to what the situation is. We have this and view this as a top priority, and it is ongoing because as I mentioned in my early remarks here, the Chinese are pervasive on this and we have seen it happen throughout both the public and the private sector.
WRAY: We have tried very hard to be more out and about in the private sector in terms of providing what are almost like defensive briefings. So that some of the U.S. telecommunications companies among other technology industry members kind of can recognize the threats that are coming their way. I think I've been pretty gratified by the response that we have gotten by most companies once we're able to try to educate them.
I think one of the bigger challenges we face is that because America's the land of innovation, there is a lot of exciting stuff that is happening in terms of smaller startup companies, a lot of them are a lot less sophisticated about the stuff and trying to make sure they're touching those and educating them as well is a continuing challenge. The reality is that the Chinese have turned more and more to more creative avenues using nontraditional collectors which I think, we in the Intelligence Community recognize, but I think the private sector is not used to spotting. And so a lot of it is trying to educate them about what to be on the lookout for and have it be more of a dialogue.
BURR: Senator Risch.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Thank you very much. First of all, I want to associate myself with remarks of the vice chairman when he said we -- this committee will always have your backs. For those of you who have been associated with this committee, Dan you used to sit here and Director Pompeo you were in the same operation across the way. Mr. Cardillo, Mr. Rogers, you guys seem like part of the committee, we see you so much up there, you know that that's the case. We sincerely appreciate that.
I would say, however, every one of us here knows what a tough job each of your agencies has. I'm speaking for myself and I suspect for most if not all of the committee, we have absolute 100 percent confidence in your ability to in a very neutral, dispassionate fashion, deliver to us the facts that we need in order to make the policy decisions. One of the things that does rear its ugly head occasionally and causes issues and it winds up in the media a lot more than it should, is when your jobs intersect with domestic political affairs. And Mr. Wray probably you wind up with this more than anybody else. It gets messy. It gets difficult. I think we've all got to recommit ourselves to what we're actually doing here to reach -