During the annual U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding threats to the United States, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the lawmakers that proposed budget cuts from the Obama sequester are a major hindrance for intelligence officials and their subordinates.
Sequestration leaves the intelligence community 'handcuffed" when it comes to making decisions about calculated budget cuts to better function in a dangerous world.
With the possible loss of hundreds of trained analysts, loss of outside contractors, and furloughs for FBI and CIA agents, Clapper said, “We may risk missing an early sign of a [terrorist] attack.”
"Clapper's testimony hit the nail on the head," said former intelligence officer and civilian police detective Stanley Graff. "During the Clinton years, intelligence and counterintelligence were treated as anachronisms until the terrorists hit us on Sept. 11, 2001," he said.
During his testimony, Clapper illustrated “how quickly and radically the world and our threat environment are changing.”
Such an attack is not far-fetched, but will most probably not involve aircraft. "Hundreds of them have happened recently, and from unlikely sources, and they have all happened online," Clapper testified.
During the presentation of his prepared remarks, Clapper spoke of a growing threat of cyber attacks on the U.S. economy. He stressed that a “major cyber attack” is remote and that Russia and China “are unlikely to launch such a devastating attack against the United States outside of a military conflict.”
However, other cybersecurity experts. such as James Hendler, professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., have warned that indeed Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are likely perpetrators of serious cyber attacks against both public and private sector computer systems.
But Clapper did add that "state or non-state [attackers] might deploy less sophisticated cyber attacks as a form of retaliation or provocation.”
He also told lawmakers that America's lethargic Internet security has allowed foreign intelligence agencies “to close the technological gap between our respective militaries, slowly neutralizing one of our key geopolitical advantages."
Following Clapper’s statement, the committee posed questions to a witness panel, which—along with FBI Director Robert Mueller and Clapper—included National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Philip Goldberg.