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U.S. Intel Chief Says Shutdown Puts Nation, Spies in Danger

Thursday, October 3, 2013 11:07
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Did anyone take the nation’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI) seriously when he told Congress this week that the government shutdown will put the country in danger, cause “insidious” damage and risk spy missions?

What about the part where he said financial stress—presumably created by not getting paid—could make his intelligence officers vulnerable to being bought off by foreign spies? It’s almost comical though it sounds really dramatic and quite distressing. Could it be true or was James Clapper putting on a show for lawmakers this week?

“The risk is 75 percent more than it was yesterday,” Clapper told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The danger here… will accumulate over time. The damage will be insidious so each day that goes by, the jeopardy increases.” This is due to all that valuable intelligence that’s being lost because there are fewer workers to track targets, according to a news report of the hearing. Before anyone loses any sleep, the DNI chief assured that he’s keeping enough employees on the payroll to guard against “imminent threats to life or property.” 

Then he upped the ante by insinuating that financial stress could make his intelligence officers vulnerable to being bribed by enemy governments. “This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence service to recruit, particularly as our employees already, many of whom subject to furloughs driven by sequestration, are going to have, I believe, even greater financial challenges,” Clapper said.

The head of the National Security Agency (NSA), General Keith Alexander, got a few words in as well, though he didn’t come close to matching Clapper’s theatrical performance. Alexander told senators that his agency is still working on significant counterterrorism and other threats, but the partial government shutdown has had a huge impact on morale. Neither intel chief could offer any figures because the number of employees at these agencies is classified.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, said furloughs provide the flexibility for the national security community to ensure the country is safe. “If Director Clapper’s testimony is accurate, he owes it to the American people to either make sure he is appropriately applying the law, or he should press President Obama to ask Congress to pass legislation that can quickly clear the House and Senate that funds the national security community immediately,” Grassley said.


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