Intelligence Chiefs Outline Threats

The nation’s top civilian and military intelligence chiefs outlined the primary threats to U.S. national security in the post 9/11 world, as well as the major obstacles to overcoming them, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee here March 17. In a joint appearance before the committee, Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Navy Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby agreed that terrorist extremists remain the greatest threat to the United States and its allies.

Goss said the war on terror “has presented the intelligence community with challenges unlike any before.” Rather than standing armies, he said, U.S. forces face small groups of terrorists and extremists who operate out of homes and caves, rather than military bases, and who don’t necessarily wear uniforms, use conventional weapons, or observe the norms and standards of civilized society.

While emphasizing that “the United States government does not engage in or condone torture,” Goss underscored the importance of professional interrogation of terrorists to save innocent lives, disrupt terrorist schemes, and protect combat forces. “The United States has had documented success protecting people and capturing terrorists with such information,” he said, and will continue to take terrorists and extremists off the battlefield. “I’d much rather explain why we did something than why we did nothing,” Goss said.

Goss also noted that the volume and scope of information the intelligence community collects, process and provides to policymakers and warfighters has grown tremendously.

While great progress has been made in improving the flow of information among analysts across the government, Goss said, many challenges remain. He cited the need to better discern between real threats and “wishful thinking,” the need to establish a threshold for allocating resources to track down leads, and the damage caused by unauthorized disclosure of classified information by the media and others.

Goss said he welcomed President Bush’s directive to increase CIA human intelligence and analytical capabilities by half and proposed the establishment of a national university of intelligence to “help define a new intelligence community culture” and encourage better cooperation across the various government agencies.

In addition to defeating terrorism, Goss said, other priorities for protecting U.S. national security include defending the homeland, stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the proliferation of drugs, and fostering stability, freedom and peace in troubled regions of the world.

Jacoby agreed with his CIA counterpart that transnational terrorism remains the primary threat to the U.S. and its interests, and said it’s not necessarily terrorism directed primarily by al Qaeda.

The terrorist threat, he said, has changed over the last 12 months away from a movement centrally directed by al Qaeda leadership to like-minded Sunni Islamic groups who share resources and goals. All of the groups, he added, “remain interested in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, and have a stated intention to conduct an attack exceeding the destruction of 9/11.”

Jacoby said WMD and missile proliferation is the second most immediate and significant threat to the United States and international stability. He cited both Iran and North Korea’s continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons as well as China’s military modernization program, which includes ballistic missiles.

In Iraq, Jacoby praised the increasing capability of Iraqi security forces, noting that since the Jan. 30 elections, daily attacks by insurgents continue to drop and “are now considerably below the high level of activity that existed last November.”

“Also,” he said, “the attacks are basically confined to four provinces in the Sunni heartland and the vicinity around Baghdad,” although he added it is too early to say whether this is a trend.

Jacoby stressed that military intelligence disciplines must remain robust and that more collection and analysis is needed to provide adequate warning of attack and a more complete understanding of the military capabilities, doctrine, war plans and intentions of other countries.

From U.S. DoD

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