29 January 2014
Senate Spying Committee Hearing 14-0129 Part 1
Wednesday, January 29, 2:27 PM
The Senate Intelligence Committee held an annual hearing on the nations
most significant security threats.
SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): (Sounds gavel.) The committee will come
Let me say at the outset that we hold this hearing to provide information
to the public on the intelligence communitys assessments of threats
facing our nation.
I ask that everyone in this room remove any signs you may have and refrain
from any disruptions during the hearing, so that the committee can conduct
the hearing and people sitting behind you can see. I will ask the Capitol
Police to remove anyone who disrupts this proceeding.
This committee meets today in open session to hear the annual report from
the United States intelligence community on the range of threats to the
nations security, and let me start by welcoming the witnesses. They
are the director of national intelligence, James Clapper; the director of
the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan; the director of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, Jim Comey; the director of the Defense Intelligence
Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn; and the director of the National
Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen.
Every year at this hearing members and intelligence officials alike talk
about how the threats to the United States are more varied and complex than
ever before, and this year is no exception. Rather than listing all the sources
of instability and proliferation of weapons capable of causing physical and
computer damage, Id like to focus my opening remarks on the threats
posed by terrorism.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of the women and men of the intelligence
community, there have no terrorist attacks against -- in the United States
homeland since our last threat hearing, and numerous plots against United
States interests overseas have been prevented.
Im concerned that this success has led to a popular misconception that
the threat has diminished. It has not. The presence of terrorist groups,
including those formally affiliated with al-Qaida and others, has spread
over the past year. While the threat emanating from Pakistans tribal
areas has diminished due to persistent counterterrorism operations, the threat
from other areas has increased. In fact, terrorist is at an all-time high
If you include attacks by groups like the Taliban against the United States
military and our coalition forces, according to the nations Consortium
for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism at the University of
Maryland, which is the source for the State Departments official tallies,
there were more than 8,400 terrorist attacks, killing 15,400 people, in 2012.
The instability that spread through North Africa and the Middle East during
the Arab Spring has continued to lead to an increase in the terrorist presence
and terrorist safe havens throughout the region. Libya, Egypt and Mali continue
to see regular violence. Recent terrorist attacks and control of -- control
now parts of western Iraq are of great concern. While governance in Yemen
and Somalia have improved, two of the most dangerous terrorist groups continue
to find safe havens in these countries, where they remain virulent. Al-Qaida
in the Arabian Peninsula, known to us as AQAP, remains intent on attacking
the United States, and al-Shabab, which publicly merged with al-Qaida in
February of 2012, continues to plot against Western targets in East Africa.
But I think the most notable development since last years hearing is
actually in Syria, which has become a magnet for foreign fighters and for
terrorist activity. The situation has become so dire that even al-Qaidas
central leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has renounced the activities of one group
as being too extreme to countenance.
Because large swaths of the country of Iraq are beyond the regimes
control or that of moderate -- excuse me -- of Syria are beyond the
regimes control or that of the moderate opposition, this leads to the
major concern of the establishment of a safe haven and the real prospect
that Syria could become a launching point or way station for terrorists seeking
to attack the United States or other nations. Not only are fighters being
drawn to Syria, but so are technologies and techniques that pose particular
problems to our defenses.
I think -- I am also concerned about Afghanistan and the drawdown of U.S.
and ISAF forces. The committee has heard the intelligence communitys
assessment of the likely outcomes for the future of Afghanistan, especially
if the bilateral security agreement is not signed and the United States in
unable to commit significant personnel and resources beyond 2014. I am
particularly concerned that the Afghan government will not be able to prevent
the return of al-Qaida elements to some parts of the country and that the
Talibans control over Afghan territory will grow.
The vice chairman and I were in Afghanistan in 2012, and he has just returned.
I saw schoolgirls walking home with their white headdress and brilliant smiles
on their faces in -- on the streets of Kabul, and I also met women serving
in the Afghan parliament. I saw their courage and devotion to their country.
And I am deeply concerned that in the years following 2014, if President
Karzai or someone else doesnt sign the bilateral security agreement,
all the gains for democracy, for womens rights will evaporate.
Im going to skip some of this and put it in the record.
As your testimony, gentlemen, makes clear today, there are numerous confounding
and complicated threats out there need devoted attention. And the intelligence
community, with sequester and furloughs, has been through a very difficult
time. And Id very much like to thank the men and women of the United
States intelligence community for their service to this country. It is very
much appreciated by this committee.
I also like to note to colleagues that Director Clapper came before us in
closed session two weeks ago and went through a series of classified matters,
and we discussed what the IC is doing about them. He and other witnesses
are available to answer classified questions in closed sessions.
But the point of todays hearing is to focus on the unclassified details
of the threats we face and to provide the American people with a better sense
of how our intelligence community views them.
Mr. Vice Chairman.
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Well, thanks very much, Madam Chair. And
I join you in welcoming all our witnesses back to this open hearing this
This has been an especially difficult year for the men and women in the
intelligence community. The constant stream of press articles as a result
of the largest intentional disclosure of classified information has without
a doubt compromised our national security and complicated our foreign
partnerships. As Director Olsen recently acknowledged, these disclosures
have caused terrorist groups to change their communication methods and in
other cases drop out of our collection altogether.
But theres another piece to these leaks that each one of you is seeing
on a daily basis. The inaccuracies and insinuations about intelligence activities
that are in place to protect this country are especially frustrating and
demoralizing to the men and women on the front lines. This committee knows
from our oversight that the intelligence community takes very seriously its
obligation to preserve the rights and privacy of Americans.
Director Clapper, I implore you to convey our thanks and appreciation to
the entire intelligence community and those men and women that serve under
each and every one of you.
Senator Burr and I recently returned from a trip to Jordan and Afghanistan,
where we met some of the men and women of our military and our intelligence
community. Many of them are serving in isolated units in very dangerous parts
of Afghanistan and are conducting very dangerous but very important missions.
In our meetings, it became very clear that we cannot let Afghanistan suffer
the same fate as Iraq. We must not withdraw from the fight before we finish
what we went there to do.
Recent press articles suggest that we may leave behind a force of 8(,000)
to 12,000 American military personnel, which would likely require continued
support from the intelligence community. Weve come a long way denying
a safe haven to al-Qaida and building up the security forces of our Afghan
partners, but we must not commit the same mistake of losing what the president
termed a must-win war. Assuming we have a signed bilateral security agreement,
we must ensure that Afghanistan has adequate support and military assistance
to ensure that it doesnt quickly go the way of Iraq.
As we continue to pressure core al-Qaida, the growth of local and regional
affiliates remains a big concern. The reason we went into Afghanistan in
the first place was to remove the safe haven that it, the Taliban -- and
the Taliban provided to al-Qaida. Yet the instability in the Middle East
and North Africa seems to be fueling a new breeding ground for terrorism,
especially in places like Syria.
As we fight these changing terrorist threats, we must not lose sight of the
national security challenges caused by our nation-state adversaries and regional
instability. As we look to the intelligence community to give us a clear
reading on what is happening now, we also expect that you will look over
the horizon to tell us about the impending threats.
In this context, recent discussions to limit your abilities to gather information
are troubling, and Id like an honest assessment from each of you of
the potential impact of these decisions. We have to make sure that the community
can effectively provide warning and protection for all of this countrys
national security interests now and in the future. It is a joint responsibility
of Congress and the administration to ensure that we prioritize our efforts
State and nonstate cyber actors, international and homegrown terrorists and
an ever-evolving list of aggressors, proliferators and criminals will continue
to try to do us harm. At any given time, the intelligence community has to
know which of these threats presents the greatest potential harm. I look
forward to hearing the details of what those threats are, what is being done
to address them and how we as your partners in this effort can assist.
Thanks, Madam Chair.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: And I thank you, Mr. Vice Chairman.
Id like to announce to the committee that last night -- excuse me --
we announced that the early bird rules would prevail today. And I want to
welcome the panel.
And Director Clapper, its my understanding you have a joint statement
for the four gentlemen and yourself. Please proceed.
DIRECTOR JAMES CLAPPER: Madam Chairman, Vice Chairman -- (inaudible) -- and
distinguished members of the committee, my colleagues and I are here today
to present the intelligence communitys worldwide threat assessment,
as we do every year.
Ill cover five topics in about eight minutes, on behalf of all of us.
As DNI, this is my fourth appearance before the committee to discuss the
threats we face. Ive made this next assertion previously, but it is,
if anything, even more evident and relevant today.
Looking back over my more than half a century in intelligence, I have not
experienced a time when we have been beset by more crises and threats around
the globe. My list is long. It includes the scourge and diversification of
terrorism loosely connected and now globally dispersed, to include here at
home, as exemplified by the Boston Marathon bombing; the sectarian war in
Syria, its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism, and the potential
threat this poses to the homeland; the spillover of conflict into neighboring
Lebanon and Iraq; the destabilizing flood of refugees in Jordan and Turkey
and Lebanon; the implications of the drawdown in Afghanistan; the deteriorating
internal security posture in Iraq; the growth of foreign cybercapabilities;
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; aggressive nation-state
intelligence efforts against us; an assertive Russia, a competitive China;
a dangerous, unpredictable North Korea, a challenging Iran, lingering ethnic
divisions in the Balkans, perpetual conflict and extremism in Africa; violent
political struggles in, among others, the Ukraine, Burma, Thailand and
Bangladesh; the specter of mass atrocities; the increasing stress of burgeoning
populations; the urgent demands for energy, water and food; the increasing
sophistication of transnational crime; the tragedy and magnitude of human
trafficking; the insidious rot of inventive synthetic drugs; the potential
for pandemic disease occasioned by the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
I could go on with this litany, but suffice to say we live in a complex,
dangerous world, and the statements for the record that weve submitted,
particularly the classified version, provide a comprehensive review of these
and other daunting challenges.
My second topic is what has consumed extraordinary time and energy for much
of the past year in the intelligence community, in the Congress, in the White
House and, of course, in the public square. Im speaking, of course,
about the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information
in our history by Edward Snowden, and the ensuing avalanche of revelations
published and broadcast around the world. I wont dwell on the debate
about Snowdens motives or legal standing, or on the supreme ironies
associated with his choice of freedom-loving nations and beacons of free
expression from which to rail about what an Orwellian state he thinks this
country has become.
But what I do want to speak to, as the nations senior intelligence
officer, is the profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continue
to cause. As a consequence, the nation is less safe and its people less secure.
What Snowden has stolen and exposed has gone way, way beyond his professed
concerns with so-called domestic surveillance programs. As a result, weve
lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared
with us by valued partners. Terrorists and other adversaries of this country
are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft,
and the insights that they are gaining are making our job much, much harder.
And this includes putting the lives of members or assets of the intelligence
community at risk, as well as our armed forces, diplomats and our citizens.
Were beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of
adversaries, which you alluded to, particularly terrorists -- a disturbing
trend which I anticipate will continue.
Snowden claims that hes won and that his mission is accomplished. If
that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of
the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent
even more damage to U.S. security.
As a third and related point, I want to comment on the ensuing fallout. It
pains me greatly that the National Security Agency and its magnificent workforce
have been pilloried in public commentary. I started in the intelligence
profession 50 years ago, in SIGINT, and members of my family and I have worked
at NSA, so this is deeply personal to me. The real facts are, as the president
noted in his speech on the 17th, that the men and women who work at NSA,
both military and civilian, have done their utmost to protect this country
and do so in a lawful manner. As I and other leaders in the community have
said many times, NSAs job is not to target the emails and phone calls
of U.S. citizens. The agency does collect foreign intelligence -- the whole
reason NSA has existed since 1952 -- performing critical missions that Im
sure the American people want it to carry out.
Moreover, the effects of the unauthorized disclosures hurt the entire
intelligence community, not just NSA. Critical intelligence capabilities
in which the United States has invested billions of dollars are at risk or
likely to be curtailed or eliminated either because of compromise or conscious
Moreover, the impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified
by the substantial budget reductions were incurring. The stark consequences
of this perfect storm are plainly evident. The intelligence community is
going to have less capacity to protect our nation and its allies than weve
In this connection, Im also compelled to note the negative morale impact
this perfect storm has had on the IC workforce, which are compounded by
sequestration furloughs, the shutdown and salary freezes. And in that regard,
I very much appreciate -- we all do -- your tributes to the women and men
of the intelligence community, and we will certainly convey that to all of
This leads me to my fourth point. We are thus faced with collectively --
and by collectively, I mean this committee, the Congress at large, the executive
branch and, most acutely, all of us in the intelligence community -- with
the inescapable imperative to accept more risk. This is a plain, hard fact
and a circumstance that the community must and will manage, together with
you and those we support in the executive branch.
But if dealing with reduced capacities is what we need to ensure the faith
and confidence of the American people in their elected representatives, then
we in the intelligence community will work as hard as we can to meet the
expectations before us.
And that brings me to my fifth and final point. A major takeaway for us --
and certainly for me -- from the past several months is we must lean in the
direction of transparency wherever and whenever we can. With greater transparency
about these intelligence programs, the American people may be more likely
to accept them. The president set the tone and direction for us in his speech
as well as in his landmark presidential policy directive, a major hallmark
of which is transparency.
I have specific tasking in conjunction with the attorney general to conduct
further declassification, to develop additional protections under Section
702 of the FISA act, to modify how we conduct bulk collection of telephone
metadata under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and to ensure more oversight
of sensitive collection activities. And clearly, well need your support
in making these changes.
Through all this, we must and will sustain our professional tradecraft and
integrity, and we must continue to protect our crown- jewel sources and methods
so that we can accomplish what weve always been chartered to do, protect
the lives of American citizens here and abroad from the myriad threats I
described at the beginning of this statement.
With that, Ill conclude. And were ready to address your questions.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Director Clapper. And thank you for
being so up-front.
I wanted to ask you one question about Syria, and then Mr. Olsen a question
Your written statement for the record, I believe, states, Director Clapper,
that Syria has become a significant location for independent or al-Qaida-aligned
groups to recruit, train and equip a growing number of extremists, some of
whom might conduct external attacks. Could you respond to this?
And how concerned should we be, also, about Europeans or even Americans training
in Syria and traveling back to the West to carry out attacks?
DIRECTOR CLAPPER: Well, we should be very concerned about this, Senator
Feinstein. Syria has become a huge magnet for extremists, first those groups
who are engaged in Syria itself, some 1,600 different groups, and we estimate
somewhere in the neighborhood of between 75,000 and 110,000, of which about
26,000 we grade as extremists.
We estimate at this point in excess of 7,000 foreign fighters have been attracted
from some 50 countries, many of them in Europe and the Mideast. And this
is of great concern not only to us but to those countries. In our recent
engagements with our foreign interlocutors, and particularly in Europe,
tremendous concern here for these extremist who are attracted to Syria, engage
in combat, get training -- and were seeing now the appearance of training
complexes in Syria to train people to go back to their countries and, of
course, conduct more terrorist acts. So this is a huge concern to all of
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much. Mr. Olsen, on Sochi, Id like to
know what your assessment is of the threat to the Olympic games and whether
you believe our athletes will be safe. And Id like Director Comey to
respond to the level of cooperation between the Russians and the FBI with
respect to security at the Olympic games. Mr. Olsen -- (inaudible) --
MR. OLSEN: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman and Vice Chairman. And let
me just say at the outset, I appreciate your leadership, and in particular,
your focus on terrorism and leadership of the entire committee. And if I
may say just as well, I fully agree with Director Clappers assessment
of the situation in Syria. And as you laid out in your opening statement,
the combination of a permissive environment, extremist groups like al-Nusra
and the number of foreign fighters combine to make Syria a place that we
are very concerned about -- in particular, the potential for terrorist attacks
emanating from Syria to the West.
Now, with respect to your question about Sochi, we are very focused on the
Sochi Olympics, and we have seen an uptick in the threat reporting regarding
Sochi. And this was what we expected given where the Olympics are located.
There are a number of extremists in that area, and in particular, a group,
Imirat Kavkaz, which is probably the most prominent terrorist in Russia.
The leader of that group last July announced in a public message that the
group would intend to carry out attacks in Sochi in connection with the Olympics,
and weve seen a number of attacks stemming from last Fall -- suicide
bombings in Volgograd that took a number of lives.
So were very focused on the problem of terrorism in the run-up to the
Olympics. I would add that I traveled to Sochi last December and met with
Russian security officials. They understand the threat; they are very focused
on this and devoting substantial resources. The biggest issue, from my
perspective, is not the games themselves, the venues themselves; there is
extensive security at those locations -- the sites of the events. The greater
threat is to softer targets in the greater Sochi area and in the outskirts,
beyond Sochi, where there is a substantial potential for a terrorist attack.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much. Mr. Comey, would you tell us what you
can about cooperation between Russia and your organization?
DIR. COMEY: Certainly, Senator. The cooperation between the FSB and the FBI
in particular has been steadily improving over the last year. Weve
had exchanges at all levels, particularly in connection with Sochi, including
me directly to my counterpart at FSB, and I think that we have a good level
of cooperation there. It can always improve; were looking for ways
to improve it, as are they, but this, as Director Olsen said, remains a big
focus of the FBI.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Mr. Vice Chairman?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thanks, Madam Chair. Director Clapper, you assess in your
statement for the record that core al-Qaida has been on a downward trajectory
since 2008, and that their ability to conduct complex, sophisticated and
large-scale attacks against the homeland is significantly degraded. However,
at the same time, you assess that AQAP poses a significant threat and remains
intent on targeting the United States and U.S. interests overseas.
What Id like to do is to have you first start off, Director Clapper,
but I want kind of a general discussion about al-Qaida -- not just core al-Qaida
-- but their threat to the United States, both domestically as well as overseas,
and each of you have kind of a different interest there, even down to you,
Director Comey, obviously, with respect to homegrown terrorists and the future
So these are kind of the questions Id like for you to address. One,
how would you characterize the probability of an al-Qaida sponsored or inspired
attack against the U.S. homeland today as compared to 2001? If al-Qaida is
evolving from a centralized, core group to a decentralized, global movement
of multiple organizations capable of attacking the United States? Would you
say the threat has decreased or increased?
Third, has the threat against the U.S. interests overseas increased or diminished
over the past decade? And then, lastly, what is the impact on limitations
that are proposed to be put on Sections 215 and 702 likely to have on the
future of the intelligence community with regard to collection?
DIR. CLAPPER: Thank you, Vice Chairman Chambliss.
Let me -- let me -- (inaudible) -- Ill turn to others. I think -- in
fact, NCTC probably said it best recently that the -- while the ideological
center of the al-Qaida movement, I think, still remains in the -- in the
Fatah, the operational locus and the locus for operational planning dispersed.
There are some five different franchises at least and 12 countries that this
movement has morphed into, and we see sort of chapters of it, of course,
in Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, in Syria, et cetera. And many of these
movements, while essentially locally focused, probably the most -- still,
I think, the most prominent one that has a(n) external focus, specifically
in the homeland, remains AQAP, which I think we still continue to view as
a wall of franchises, the one that has the most -- poses the most immediate
threat to -- for a potential attack on the homeland.
The probability of attack now compared to 2001 is -- at least, for me, is
a -- is a very hard question to answer, because -- principally because of
this very dispersion and diffusion of the threat, whereas were very,
very focused initially in the -- particularly in that -- in that time period
on al-Qaida -- al-Qaida Core, now we are facing a much more dispersed threat.
The -- what we spoke about before in Syria -- whats going on there
is a -- in maybe some respects, a new Fatah force. And the -- and whats
going on there and the attraction of these foreign fighters is very, very
Aspirationally, al-Nusra Front, to name one, is -- does have aspirations
for attacks on the homeland. So I cant say that you know, the threat
is any less; I think our ability to discern it is much improved over what
it was in the -- in the early part of the -- of the 2000 period.
So I think that dispersion and decentralization actually creates a different
threat and a harder one to watch and detect, because of its dispersion.
Its clear as well that our collection capabilities are not as robust,
perhaps, as they were, because the terrorists -- and this is not specifically
because of the Snowden revelations -- but generally have gotten smarter about
how we go about our business and how we use trade craft to detect them and
to thwart them.
As far as what impacts the changes that will accrue, hopefully, we can,
particularly, with respect to 215 and the other tools that we have that we
can minimize the threat by -- as we make these modifications and alterations,
but in general, this is big-hand, little-map, we are in toto going -- certainly
have less capacity than we had in the past, and thats occasioned by
the changes were going to make, as well as the -- you know, the significant
budget cuts were taking.
And those two things together, as I alluded to in my oral statement, kind
of the perfect storm that were going to -- were going to contend
with. And the bottom line, at least for me, is that were going to have
to identify and be -- eyes wide open -- I say we, all of us -- about identifying
risk and managing it.
Let me turn to my colleagues, John?
DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN: Just agree with General Clapper. The diversity and
dispersion has made it much more challenging for us. We need to rely heavily
on partners and building of capacity in a number of countries throughout
The terrorists are becoming more sophisticated and theyre going to
school on the repeated disclosures and leaks so that is has allowed them
to burrow in. It has it much more difficult for us to find them and to address
the threat that they pose.
So when I look at the threat relative to 9/11, we as a country have done,
I think, a great job of addressing some of the vulnerabilities that exist
in our system and of putting together an information-sharing architecture
that allows us to move information very quickly, but you never know what
you dont know.
And with the increasing diversity of the threats and with the growth, as
you pointed out, of terrorist elements in places like Syria and Yemen, we
have a number of fronts that we need to confront simultaneously.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Vice Chairman.
SENATOR MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM): Thank you, Chairman.
Thank you all for joining us today. And I want to thank you for participating
in this open hearing on worldwide threats. I know its not always easy
to talk about some of these things in an unclassified setting, but I certainly
appreciate your willingness to try.
I also want to publicly thank the men and women of the intelligence community
who, day in and day out, dedicate themselves to keeping us all safe. Its
a thankless job that a simple expression of gratitude cant fully capture,
but we deeply appreciate their efforts.
Before I get to my questions today, Mr. Brennan, I just want to publicly
note my continued disappointment with how the CIA, under your leadership,
has chosen to engage and interact with this committee, especially as it relates
to the committees study of the CIAs detention and interrogation
program. Recent efforts undertaken by the CIA, including but not limited
to inaccurate public statements about the committees study, are meant
to intimidate, deflect and thwart legitimate oversight. It only makes me
firmer in my conviction that the committee should release and declassify
the full 6,300-page study with minimal redactions so that the public can
judge the facts for themselves.
I want to applaud my colleague Senator Rockefeller for making significant
efforts to bridge the chasm between the committee and the -- and Director
Brennan on some of these issues. But it doesnt appear to be in the
directors nature to accept these overtures, frankly. And I think
thats incredibly unfortunate. I am fully confident in the factual accuracy
of the report, and nothing in your response so far has persuaded me otherwise.
Director Brennan, let me get to a few questions. On March 16th, 2009, one
of your predecessors, CIA Director Leon Panetta, announced the creation of
a Directors Review Group for Rendition, Detention and Interrogation,
to be led by a well-respected senior CIA officer and advised by Senator Warren
Rudman, who passed away, as you know, in 2012. According to the press release
at the time, the group was tasked with assembling data and formulating positions
on the, quote, complex, often controversial questions that define
rendition, detention and interrogation, unquote. Do you know when and
why the Panetta review group was disbanded?
DIR. BRENNAN: Senator, first of all, I respectfully but vehemently disagree
with your characterization of the CIAs cooperation with this committee.
I am fully prepared to come forward to this committee at any time that it
requests my appearance to talk about that study.
And I think -- related to the issue that you just raised in terms of the
question, I think all committee members are in receipt of some information
that I have provided recently to the chairman and vice chairman on this issue,
and I look forward to addressing these matters with the committee at the
appropriate time and not at a threat assessment hearing.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Brennan. I believe thats appropriate.
SEN. HEINRICH: Actually, it doesnt fully answer the question of whether
-- and Im not sure that I do know, actually, when and why the Panetta
review group was disbanded.
DIR. BRENNAN: Ill be happy to address that question at the time when
the committee leadership requests that information from me.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you. I think thats appropriate, Senator, for
a classified session.
SEN. HEINRICH: OK. Let me move on to Director Clapper and change gears a
little bit to Edward Snowden. The revelations by Edward Snowden regarding
U.S. intelligence collection have obviously caused some tensions with our
European allies. Have our European allies ever collected intelligence against
U.S. officials or businesspeople or those of other allied nations?
DIR. CLAPPER: Yes, they have. And I could go into more detail on that in
a classified session.
SEN. HEINRICH: Thats fine, Director Clapper. Russia recently announced
that it would extend Edward Snowdens asylum and not force him to leave
their country. Do you believe that the Russians have gained access to the
documents that Edward Snowden stole, which -- obviously, many of which have
not been released publicly, fortunately?
DIR. CLAPPER: I think this might be best left to a classified session, and
I dont want to do any -- say or do anything that would jeopardize a
SEN. HEINRICH: Thats fine, Director.
Thank you, Chairman.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Senator Heinrich.
SENATOR RON WYDEN (D-OR): Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Let me start by saying that the men and women of Americas intelligence
agencies are overwhelmingly dedicated professionals, and they deserve to
have leadership that is trusted by the American people. Unfortunately, that
trust has been seriously undermined by senior officials reckless reliance
on secret interpretations of the law and battered by years of misleading
and deceptive statements that senior officials made to the American people.
These statements did not protect sources and methods that were useful in
fighting terror. Instead, they hid bad policy choices and violation of the
liberties of the American people.
For example, the director of the NSA said publicly that the NSA doesnt
hold data on U.S. citizens. That was obviously untrue.
Justice Department officials testified that Section 215 of the Patriot Act
is analogous to grand jury subpoena authority, and that deceptive statement
was made on multiple occasions.
Officials also suggested that the NSA doesnt have the authority to
read Americans emails without a warrant. But the FISA Court opinions
declassified last August showed that wasnt true either.
So for purposes of trying to move this dialogue along, because I dont
think this culture of misinformation is going to be easily fixed, Id
like to get into several other areas where the governments interpretation
of the law is still unclear.
Director Clapper, law-abiding Americans want to protect the privacy of their
communication, and I see a clear need to strengthen protections for information
-- for information sent over the Web or stored in the cloud. Declassified
court documents show that in 2011 the NSA sought and obtained the authority
to go through communications, collect it with respect to Section 702 of the
Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, and conduct warrantless searches
for the communications of specific Americans. Can you tell us today whether
any searches have ever been conducted?
DIR. CLAPPER: Senator Wyden, I think at a threat hearing, this would -- I
would prefer not to discuss this and have this as a separate subject that
-- because there are very complex legal issues here that I -- I just dont
think this is the appropriate time to discuss them.
SEN. WYDEN: When would that time be? I tried with written questions, Director
Clapper, a year ago to get answers, and we were stonewalled on that. And
this committee cant do oversight if we cant get direct answers.
So when will you give the American people a(n) unclassified answer to that
question that relates directly to their privacy?
DIR. CLAPPER: As soon as we can -- soon, sir. I-- Ill -- (inaudible)
SEN. WYDEN: What would be wrong with 30 days?
DIR. CLAPPER: Thats fine.
SEN. WYDEN: All right. Thank you. Thats making some progress.
Director Brennan, a question with respect to policy. Does the Federal Computer
Fraud and Abuse Act apply to the CIA? Seems to me thats a yes or no
DIR. BRENNAN: I would have to look into what that act actually calls for
and its applicability to CIAs authorities, and Ill be happy to
get back to you, Senator, on that.
SEN. WYDEN: How long would that take?
DIR. BRENNAN: Ill be happy to get it back to you as soon as possible,
but certainly no longer than --
SEN. WYDEN: A week?
DIR. BRENNAN: I think that I could get that back to you, yes.
SEN. WYDEN: Very good.
Let me ask a question of you, then, if I might, Director Comey. Id
like to ask you about the governments authority to track individuals
using things like cell site location information and smartphone applications.
Last fall the NSA director testified that we, the NSA, identify a number;
we can give that to the FBI. When they get their probable cause, then they
can get the locational information they need.
Ive been asking the NSA to publicly clarify these remarks but it
hasnt happened yet.
So is the FBI required to have probable cause in order to acquire Americas
cell site location information for intelligence purposes?
DIR. COMEY: I dont believe so, Senator. We -- in almost all circumstance
we have to obtain a court order, but the showing is a reasonable basis to
believe its relevant to the investigation.
SEN. WYDEN: So you dont have to show probable cause; you have cited
Is that standard different if the government is collecting the location
information from a smartphone app rather than a cellphone tower?
DIR. COMEY: I dont think I know. I probably ought to ask someone
whos a little smarter on what the standard is that governs those. I
dont know the answer, sitting here.
SEN. WYDEN: My time is up. Can I have an answer to that within a week?
DIR. COMEY: You sure can.
SEN. WYDEN: All right.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Senator Wyden.
Senator Udall, let me apologize to you. I inadvertently skipped over your
name and called on Senator Wyden. But its your moment.
SENATOR MARK UDALL (D-CO): No apologies, Madam Chair.
Good morning to all of you. Thank you for being here. I too want to make
it clear how much this committee respects and admires the hardworking members
of the intelligence community. And I know everyone on this committee keeps
this worldwide threat assessment handy. Its not reading that puts you
to sleep; its reading that gets your attention. I want to thank you
and your teams for putting this together.
I did want to pick up on Senator Heinrichs line of questioning. (Pausing
for microphone adjustment.) Were back in operation here.
Director Brennan, you know the long history of this committees study
of our detention and interrogation programs, and Id like to put my
statement in the record that walks us through that record. But I did want
to focus initially on the CIA internal review. Some people call it the Panetta
Were you aware of this CIA internal review when you provided the CIAs
official response to this committee in June of last year? I dont have
much time, so Id appreciate a yes or no answer.
DIR. BRENNAN: It wasnt a review, Senator; it was a summary. And at
the time, no, I had not gone through it.
SEN. UDALL: It strikes me as a bit improbable, given that you knew about
the internal review and you spoke to us and stated that your obligation as
the CIA director was to make sure that the CIAs response was as thorough
and accurate as possible.
But in that context, let me move to the next question. Does the information
in the internal review contradict any of the positions included in your June
2013 response to the committee?
DIR. BRENNAN: Senator, I respectfully would like to say that I dont
think this is the proper format for that discussion because our responses
to your report were in classified form. And I look forward to addressing
these questions with the committee at the appropriate time.
SEN. UDALL: Let me make sure I understand. Are you saying that the CIA officers
who were asked to produce this internal review got it wrong, just like you
said the committee got it wrong? We had 6,300 pages, 6 million documents,
DIR. BRENNAN: Senator, as you well know, I didnt say that the committee
got it wrong. I said there were things in that report that I disagreed with,
there were things in that report that I agreed with. And I look forward to
working with the committee on the next steps in that report. And I stand
by my statement. Im prepared to deal with the committee to make sure
that were able to address the issue of the detention, rendition,
interrogation program at the appropriate time. Look forward to it.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: (Off mic.)
SEN. UDALL: Madam Chair, I still have two minutes remaining.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: (Off mic) -- do.
SEN. UDALL: Let me move to the Snowden disclosures and what I thinks
been a -- clearly outlined as a trust deficit that exists between the public
and the intelligence community. This committee was created to address a severe
breach of trust that developed when it was revealed that the CIA was conducting
unlawful domestic searches. The Church committee went to work, found that
to be true.
I want to be able to reassure the American people, especially given whats
been happening, that the CIA and the director understand the limits of their
mission and of its authorities.
We all are well aware of Executive Order 12333. That order prohibits the
CIA from engaging in domestic spying and searches of U.S. citizens within
our borders. Can you assure the committee that the CIA does not conduct such
domestic spying and searches?
DIR. BRENNAN: I can assure the committee that the CIA follows the letter
and the spirit of the law in terms of what CIAs authorities are, in
terms of its responsibilities to collect intelligence that will keep this
country safe. Yes, Senator, I do.
SEN. UDALL: Let me finish on this note. I think we have an important opportunity
when it comes to this vital review that we undertook.
We can set the record straight. America is at its best when we acknowledge
our mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Its clear that the detention,
rendition and interrogation programs of the CIA went over the line over the
last -- during the first decade of this century.
Director Brennan, I just dont understand why we cant work together
to clarify the record, to move forward and in so doing acknowledge the tremendous
work of those you lead and those that were tasked in this -- on this
committee to oversee. Im hopeful that we can find a way forward on
this important, important matter. Thank you.
DIR. BRENNAN: I hope we can too, Senator.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.
I want to apologize to Senator Collins because I didnt indicate initially
that we would go back and forth, and so the list is actually who got here
first. But its Senator Mikulski next, and then Senator Collins.
SENATOR BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-MD): Id be happy to yield to Senator Collins.
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): The chairman of the Appropriations Committee
always goes first. (Laughter.)
Senator, please proceed.
SEN. MIKULSKI: First of all, to those here at the panel and other members
of agencies representing the intelligence community, like Homeland Security,
I too want to echo my thanks and support for all the employees who work in
the intelligence community. And General Clapper, I want to say to you, I
recall in last years hearing you asked for flexibility for the Intel
Committee as we face sequester. During these, at times, even intense hearing
today, I want you to know that both the chairman and the vice chairman, supported
by (the entire ?) members of this committee, worked with me to try to get
flexibility for you. We were stopped by the House of Representatives during
the CR to get you that flexibility. But I want you to know today we were
united to try to get you, and therefore the intelligence community, that.
So were on the side of the employees facing furloughs, sequester and
Thanks now to the budget agreement and what we were able to do and the
consolidated appropriations, we think that parts behind. So we look
forward to working with you as we listen to those needs.
I want to come, though, to the employees there. And no group of employees
has been battered more than the men and women who work at the National Security
Agency. Because of the illegal leaks by Eric Snowden (sic; Edward Snowden),
NSA has been battered and, by de facto, so have the employees at the National
Security Agency. Were all well aware that the morale is extremely low
there because of budget impacts and the impacts of Snowden.
Let me go to my point, though. The men and women who work at the National
Security Agency surely believe that what they did -- do, particularly under
215 and 702 -- is constitutional, is legal, was authorized and was necessary.
So they felt they were doing a good job defending America.
Id like to come to the constitutionality and engage in your support
and get your views. There are now several legal opinions about the
constitutionality of these programs. And now as we engage upon these reform
efforts -- which I support review and reform being led by many members in
this committee, that we need to determine the constitutionally -- would you
-- because if its not constitutional, thats it -- would -- General
Clapper, have -- would you, consulting with the Department of Justice, the
White House, ask for an expedited review by the Supreme Court of the United
States to determine the constitutionality of these programs so that we
dont continually shop for the legal opinion that we want, either one
side or the other?
DIR. CLAPPER: Ill discuss this with the attorney general. I am not
up on the -- what the protocol is for us seeking a reading by the Supreme
Court. But --
SEN. MIKULSKI: Is there a sense of urgency within the administration to seek
such a constitutional determination?
DIR. CLAPPER: I think theres -- well, I cant speak for the
administration. I dont know. I would think there would be since we,
to your point, I think, throughout all of this, and with all the controversy,
that we all felt and still feel that what we were doing was legal, was
oversighted, both -- by all three branches of the government.
There is a current court ruling on -- a Fourth Amendment ruling, which, of
course -- (inaudible) -- date is provided to a third party. It doesnt
SEN. MIKULSKI: General Clapper, there are 36 different legal opinions.
DIR. CLAPPER: I realize that.
SEN. MIKULSKI: Thirty-six say the programs constitutional. Judge Leon
said its not. Im not avoiding -- (inaudible).
DIR. CLAPPER: Exactly. And nor are we.
SEN. MIKULSKI: And I respect the appeals process, but I think weve
got to get a constitutional ruling on this as quickly as possible. I think
the American people are entitled to knowing that, and I think the men and
women who work at NSA need to know that, and I think those of us who want
to embark upon a review and reform effort need to know that.
DIR. CLAPPER: I could not agree with you more about the need for clarity
on these issues for the women and men of the intelligence community who are
trying to do the right thing.
SEN. MIKULSKI: Now, Id like to come to cybersceurity and Director Comey.
As you know, Targets been hit, Neiman-Marcus has been hit, Michaels
-- who knows what else. What I find is in the publics mind, there is
a confusion now between cybersecurity and surveillance -- its kind
of co-mingled these words. But my question to you is that -- is two things.
Is the impact of the Snowden affair slowly us down in our work to be more
aggressive in the cybersecurity area, particularly as it relates to American
people, their identity, the safety of their credit cards, our grid, et cetera?
And has the failure for us to pass cybersecurity regulatory efforts really
aided and abetted these -- has been a contributing factor to the fact that
international crime is now targeting us?
DIR. COMEY: Thank you, Senator. With respect to the work being done by the
men and women in law enforcement to respond to cyberthreats, especially those
around financial fraud and theft, were working as hard as ever to try
and address those threats. What the storm around surveillance and the leaks
has done is just complicated the discussion about what tools we use to do
that. So in that respect, its made our life more complicated.
I think that people need to realize that there is threat of fraud and theft
because weve connected our entire lives to the Internet. And thats
a place where we, using our law enforcement authorities, have to be able
to respond robustly.
SEN. MIKULSKI: Do you think Congress needs to pass legislation in this area?
DIR. COMEY: Yes, I do.
SEN. MIKULSKI: Do you feel that theres an urgency around that and we
should review those original legislation, even as a starting point for
DIR. COMEY: There is. One of the critical parts of responding to cybercriminals
is the information sharing. The private sector sees the bad guys coming in.
We need to make sure that the private sector understands the rules of the
road and how they share that information with the government.
SEN. MIKULSKI: My time is up. I just want to say also, during the sequester
and so on, I read these wonderful documents that came from voluntary
organizations associated with the FBI. It was called voices from the field.
They were really quite poignant. And it shows that, you know, when they say,
with sequester, they didnt want to exempt the fence, but our first
line of defense in many ways is what we see at this table. So would you thank
the agents for us?
DIR. COMEY: I will. Thank you, Senator.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Senator Mikulski. And now our very -- (inaudible)
-- Senator Collins