tv CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow CNN May 11, 2017 7:00am-8:01am PDT
-- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com all right, the breaking news this morning. you are looking at live pictures from capitol hill. this is the senate intelligence committee hearing. now we're hearing of really just huge importance. for the first time, we will hear from the new acting director of the fbi, andrew mccabe. this is the first time he will speak in public since his boss, former boss, fbi director james comey, was fired from his post. and there are a great number of
questions that the acting director, no doubt, needs to face today. >> especially given all we've learned in the last 12 hours about what is reportedly what drove this president to fire the fbi director. let's bring back in our panel, mark preston, nia-malika henderson, bob baer, laura coates, dana bash, evan perez. and evan, to you first. as andy mccabe sits down, what questions will he be drilled with off the bat, do you believe? >> well, one of the first questions i'm sure they're going to ask him is how he found out that his boss, james comey, was fired. we know how comey found out. he was addressing agents at the los angeles field office when fox news incorrectly reported that he had resigned. and he sort of laughed it off because he knew he hadn't resigned. then he sees cnn and others start reporting that high been fired, and that's when he really found out. so, that is the big question for mccabe. and obviously, the other question is how is this firing going to affect this investigation into russian meddling in the 2016 election?
that's obviously one of the biggest resource-driven investigations at the fbi. we know comey had asked for more resources. we're going to see what the fbi is doing about trying to get those resources to do this investigation as quickly as possible. >> and mark preston, you know, we expect to hear from the chair of the intel committee, senator burr from north carolina, also the vice chair, democrat mark warner from virginia. what kind of message, mark, do you think that they want to send this morning? >> well, a couple things. i think we've already seen a relationship, a working relationship, between democrats and republicans on the intelligence committee, and that is very, very important. as we've seen in hearings in the house, you know, previous hearings where you could see there was friction between democrats and republicans about trying necessarily to get to the truth. but why this is so important and why we keep talking about james comey and this russia investigation is that this hearing today is about worldwide threats. there are major issues right now facing the nation.
and when you have the president of the united states taking action and firing his fbi director at a time when we're dealing with issues of north korea and the middle east and we're dealing with the situation in syria, that's why this hearing is so important. so, in addition to what we're hearing about comey, we're also going to hear from our leaders of the intelligence committee, john and poppy, who are going to tell us what they think the u.s. needs to focus its attention on. >> laura coates, given that the former deputy, now acting director, of the fbi will be testifying, do you believe it will come up that he will be asked about that prominent part that the president added to his letter firing comey about, by the way, thank you for telling me three times that i am not under investigation. i mean, you've got to believe he's going to be asked about that, because there are a lot of issues around the idea that the president would even have those conversations with the then fbi director about an ongoing investigation. >> absolutely, he'll be asked about it. it was curious to know that if
you know your days are numbered, perhaps, you're already interviewing interim directors, will you be forthcoming? will you be defiant? will you be particularly averse to keeping things close to the vest like you would have been prior to this? that's going to be an interesting point to see how he actually asserts himself in this position. but of course, his testimony could also lend some credence to what we know could be a concocted reason, but justification that trump may be saying, listen, he wasn't focusing on other priorities that i had, like leaks or other national security interests. so, if this conference is intended to be one that will be all-encompassing about other things, he may be able to say, look, there should be other focus there isn't to focus on here, other than the russia investigation. but you'd better believe he will be peppered with questions about when he knew it, whether or not james comey was, in fact, a non-partisan person who was on nobody's side and whether he would have really pulled rank in
a way that he had told the president of the united states about the investigation. >> you're looking at live pictures of the chair of the committee, richard burr, and now some of the people who will be testifying -- >> walking in. >> -- are filing in, and you will see those photos go off, no doubt, very, very shortly. nia-malika henderson, to you. the democrats -- this is one of those peculiar meetings, by the way, where this hearing is supposed to be a worldwide threat, supposed to be about something other than what will come up here. so you can bet the republicans will focus on terrorism around the world. how far do you think democrats will push to get answers about the russia investigation and to keep the focus on the firing of director comey? >> i think they will push incredibly hard on this. we have seen sort of partisan lines drawn, as mark talked about before, and i think you'll see some of that here as well with the members, the democratic members of that committee really trying to paint a fuller picture of what's happening with the russia investigation, where it
stands, what people know -- >> all right, nia, sorry to interrupt. nia, hold that thought. let's go to our manu raju, live with senator marco rubio. >> that's a question other people are going to ask, no doubt about. >> reporter: do you want comey to testify in an open hearing? >> i'd say in a closed hearing first and potentially in an open one as well. look, i already told people, i never had a problem with james comey. i know he was in a tough spot and by his own acknowledgement made some decisions that had a political implication perhaps he regretted. he felt he had two very poor options. i do think that after having served our country the way he did, he probably, if he was going to be dismissed, there's probably a better way to have done it than the way it was conducted. but that said, i just want to be clear, the fbi is staffed with high-quality individuals. they're going to continue to work on everything. >> reporter: how much of the timing of the firing were you given the russia investigation was accelerating at this point? >> i don't know. that's a good question. i'm not sure that -- that's one of the issues that i think has created all this uproar, for
lack of a better term. but we're going to -- i'm going to continue to focus on our work here, and that's unaffected by this. >> reporter: do you think it would be helpful to have a special counsel to investigate the circumstances of this firing and to reassure the american public that this investigation is actually taking place and give confidence to the public? >> maybe that will eventually happen. maybe not. but the point is that i think the intelligence committee should -- my advice is, let us finish our report, let us put all the facts out there and then people can make that determination about whether they think, based on the facts that we've discovered, such a measure is warranted. >> reporter: do you support a special counsel at this point? >> i don't think the time has come for that. it may, it may not, but let's wait to get the facts. >> this hearing just gaveling in, richard burr delivering opening statements. >> and acting director of the federal bureau of investigation, andrew mccabe. i thank all of you for being here this morning, especially to you, director mccabe, for filling in on such short notice.
since 1995, this committee has met in an open forum to hear about and discuss the security threats facing the united states of america. i understand that many people tuned in today are hopeful we'll focus solely on the russian investigation of their involvement in our elections. let me disappoint everybody up front. while the committee certainly views russian intervention in our elections as a significant threat, the purpose of today's hearing is to review and highlight the extent, to the extent possible, the ranges of threats that we face as a nation. the national security threat picture has evolved significantly since 1995. what used to be a collection of mostly physical and state-based national security concerns has been replaced by something altogether different. today our traditional focus on countries like north korea, russia, and iran is complicated
by new challenges like strategic threats posed by nonstate actors in the cyber arena and the danger of transnational terrorists who can use the internet to inspire violence and fear in the homeland, all without leaving their safe havens in the middle east. what has not changed, however, is the tireless dedication and patriotism of the women and men who make up the united states intelligence community. the very people represented by our witnesses this morning. one of the many reasons i find so much value in this hearing is that it provides the american public with some insight into the threats facing our country, but it also lets people know what's being done on their behalf to reduce those threats. i encourage all the witnesses today to not only address the threats to our nation, but to talk about what their organizations are doing to help
secure this country to the degree they can in an unclassified setting. director coates, your written statement for the record represents the collective insight of the entire intelligence community. it is a lengthy and detailed account of what this country is facing. it is also evidence of why the substantial resources and investments this committee authorizes are, in fact, necessary. from the human tragedy of the refugee crisis in the middle east to the risk that territorial ambitions will set off a regional conflict in the south china sea, it's a complicated and challenging world. director pompeo, the korean peninsula's a point of particular concern to me and to many on this committee. i'd like your insights into what is behind north korea's unprecedented level of nuclear and missile testing and how close they are to holding the u.s. mainland at risk of a nuclear attack. i'd also value your sense of how
tuesday's elections of a new president in south korea is going to impact things for us on that peninsula. general stewart, i'm sure you're aware of the reinvigorated policy discussions on afghanistan. while we all respect that you can't offer your own recommendations on what that policy should be, i would very much value your assessments of the situation in afghanistan today, including the state of governance in kabul, the sustainability and proficiency of the afghan national security forces, and whether taliban reconciliation is a realistic objective. if the u.s. is ramping up in afghanistan, we need to know the ic's views on what we're getting into. i also hope you'll share your assessments of the battlefield in iraq and in syria with us this morning. your insights into conditions on the ground, including operations to dislodge isis from mosul and
sustainability of the mosul dam would be of great value to the members of this committee and to the public. admiral rogers, i've made a couple of references to cyber already. and that's for good reason. of the many difficult challenges we're going to discuss this morning, nothing worries me more than the threat of a well-planned, hewell-executed, widescale attack on the computer networks and systems that make america work, from banking and health care to military and critical infrastructure, the functionality of our modern society is dependent on computers. when the first line of the dni's statement reads, and i quote, "nearly all information, communications networks and systems will be at risk for years," that alarms me. admiral rogers, i look forward to hearing from you on this line of assessments. director cardilla, as head of the nga, you sit at the nexus of
innovation and data collection and analysis. given the complexity of the intelligence questions the ic is being confronted with and the global nature of our national security threats to this country -- that this country faces, expectations of the nga are high. we know the ic can't be everywhere at once, but that's still kind of what we look to the nga to do. i'd appreciate your sense of what nga analytics' strengths are today and what the role of commercial imagery is in nga's future. director mccabe, welcome to the table and into the fray. to the extent possible, i hope you'll discuss the bureau's assessments of the terrorist threat within our borders. your agents are often our last line of defense here at home, and i will say, continue to do outstanding work.
we're fortunate to have six people with the experience and the dedication that we have today. i'll close there, but i'd like to highlight for my colleagues, the committee would be holding a classified hearing on worldwide threats this afternoon at 1:30. i will do everything i can to make sure that the questions that you ask in this open session are appropriate to the venue we're in. i would ask you to think about that long and hard and if there's a question, i'd ask you to ask a staffer whether this is the appropriate area. and if you as our witnesses feel that there's something you can't sufficiently answer in an open setting, that you will pause long enough to get my attention, and we'll be sure we try to move to the appropriate setting. with that, i turn to the vice chairman for any comments he might want to make. >> thank you, chairman and thank you for your leadership on this committee. i also want to join you in welcoming the witnesses.
it's good to see you all, but it is impossible to ignore that one of the leaders in the intelligence community is not here today. the president's firing. fbi director comey tuesday night was a shocking development. the timing of director comey's dismissal to me and to many members on this committee on both sides of the aisle is especially troubling. he was leading an active counterintelligence investigation into any links between the trump campaign and the russian government or its representatives, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and russia's efforts to interfere in our election. for many people, including myself, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the president's decision to remove director comey was related to this investigation, and that is truly unacceptable. we were scheduled to hear directly from director comey
today in open session. we and the american people were supposed to hear straight from the individual responsible for the fbi investigation. we anticipated asking director comey a series of questions about his actions and the actions of the fbi in terms of looking into which trump associates, if any, and some of their actions during the campaign as it relates to the russians. however, president trump's actions this week cost us an opportunity to get at the truth, at least for today. you may wonder a little bit how seriously i know the white house continues to dismiss this investigation. i point out simply for the record, the front page of the "the new york times," which shows a picture of -- it is important to restate the critical importance of
protecting the independence and integrity of federal law enforcement. this is central to maintaining the confidence of the american people in principle that all americans, no matter how powerfpower f ful, are accountable before the law. the president's actions have the potential to undermine that confidence, and that should be deeply concerning, no matter which political party you belong to. this week's remarkable developments make our committee's investigation into russia's influence on the 2016 u.s. presidential election even more important. and while it is clear to me now more than ever that an independent special counsel must be appointed, make no mistake, our committee will get to the bottom of what happened during the 2016 presidential election. and again, i want to compliment the chairman on his work in this effort. we will not be deterred from getting to the truth. these actions will do nothing to undermine our resolve to follow the evidence, wherever it leads.
we hope to speak to mr. comey. we will speak to anyone and everyone that has something to offer in this investigation. and mr. mccabe, i didn't necessarily expect to see you here today, and we don't know how long you'll be acting fbi director, but while i will adhere to what the chairman has indicated in terms of the line of questioning, i will want to make sure my first question for you, even in this public setting, will be for you to assure the committee that if you come under any political influence from the white house or others to squash this investigation or impede it in any way, that you'll let the committee know. this investigation's had its ups and downs. and again, some, including myself, sometimes have been frustrated with the pace. we will no doubt face other challenges in the future, but ups and downs and bumps sometimes is how bipartisanship works. it's a constant struggle, but one worth making, and i'm proud of the way members of this committee from both sides of the aisle have conducted themselves
in one of the most challenging political environments we've ever seen. at the same time, chairman burr and i have put this investigation on what we believe to be a solid bipartisan footing with the shared goal of getting the truth. in spite of the events of the last 24 hours, i intend to maintain our committee's focus on the investigation. indeed, the recent actions only increase the burden of responsibility on all of us to ensure that we live up to this challenge and to uncover the truth, wherever that leads. there is, obviously, consensus agreement among the u.s. intelligence community that russia massively intervened with active measures in the 2016 presidential elections. nor do i imagine that any member of this committee was surprised to see the exact same russian playbook just being run during the french elections that just took place last weekend. and no one should forget back in mid-2015, director coates, and we had some other folks in from the german services recently, that there was a hacking into
the germans'. it's fair to say they can expect to see more cyber attacks directed against their officials with their upcoming elections in september. in short, russia's direct interference in the democratic process around the globe is a direct assault that we must work on together and is clearly one of the top worldwide threats. that being said, gentlemen, i want to start again by thanking you for your service to the nation. i want to note that director coates, who is testifying before this committee in the first time since his confirmation. i know that you and marcia were ready for retirement, and i thank you both for being willing to serve your country one more time. i also want to recognize the men and women who you represent here today, these thousands of dedicated intelligence professionals who toil in the shadows, put their lives on the line, and make sacrifices most of us will never know. in order to keep our country
safe. i also want to make sure they know that i appreciate their efforts and am proud to represent them not only as the vice chair of the intelligence committee but as a senator from virginia where so many of those intelligence professionals live. this committee's annual worldwide threat hearing is an important opportunity to review the threats and challenges we face as a nation. obviously, these threats continue to multiply. as the world becomes more complex and challenging, good intelligence gives our policymakers and national leaders a heads-up on the challenges they need to address. the intelligence community in many ways is our nation's early warning system. however, a fire alarm only works if you pay attention to it. you cannot ignore it simply because you do not like what it is telling you. similarly, we need to make sure that all our policymakers pay attention to the warnings provided by you, the independent, non-partisan intelligence professionals. since the second world war, america has relied, as we all
know, on a global systems of alliances, institutions and norms to ensure our stability and prosperity. today, many challenges threaten that system. that system that has been built up over the last 70 years. as the chairman mentioned, countries like china and russia are challenging many of the global institutions. they are in many cases seeking to undercut and delegitimize them. we must work together to stand vigilant against that threat. similarly, rogue states, such as north korea, have sought to undercut the global regime. obviously, north korea is one of the most pressing issues our country faces. and, admiral rogers, as the chair mentioned, we all share enormous concern about both the upside and downside of new technologies and the asymmetrical threats that are posed by cyber and other technology actors. and i would add as well, director cardillo, i think we've discussed as well, our dominance
in terms of overhead in many ways is a threat as well from emerging nations. terrorist groups and extremists are also able to access a lot of these new technologies. and while isis in particular continues to suffer losses in syria, iraq and libya, unfortunately, it continues to spread its hateful ideology through social media and encrypted communications. gentlemen, i will lightly touch on the challenges we face, look forward to the discussion. i thank you for being here and look forward to this hearing. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i thank the vice chairman. for members' purposes, we have a vote scheduled on the floor at 11:00. it's the intent of the chair and vice chair that we will rotate the gavel so that the hearing continues through. members will be recognized by seniority for five minutes. when we conclude the open session, hopefully with enough gap for our witnesses to have
some lunch, we will reconvene at 1:30. the afternoon vote to my knowledge is not set yet, but we will work around that, so plan to be back at the skiff by 1:30 for that hearing to start. with that, director coates, the floor is yours. >> chairman burr, vice chairman warner, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. i'm here with my colleagues from across the ic community, and i'm sure i speak for my colleague, mike pompeo, new director of the cia, that the two of us, new to the job, have inherited an intelligence community with leadership and professionals with expertise that is exceptional, and it is a great privilege to hold these
positions and know that we have the support from across 17 agencies relative to gathering intelligence, analyzing and synthesizing that intelligence. and several of those leaders are sitting here today, and we're most appreciative of their contributions to their country and to this issue. the complexity of the threat environment is ever expanding and has challenged the ic to stay ahead of the adversary, and it has not been an easy task. given the tests we face around the world, the ic continues its work to collect, analyze, and integrate these and other issues. we appreciate very much the support from your committee to address these threats in a way that will give the president, congress and other policymakers the best and most integrated intelligence we can assemble. in the interests of time and on behalf of my colleagues at the table, i'll discuss just some of the many challenging threats
that we currently face. the intelligence community's written statement for the record that was submitted earlier discusses these and many other threats in greater detail. let me start with north korea. north korea is an increaingly grave national security threat to the united states because of its growing missile and nuclear capabilities combined with the aggressive approach of its leader, kim jong-un. kim's attempting to prove he has the capability to strike the u.s. mainland with a nuclear weapon. he has taken initial steps toward fielding a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, but it has not yet been flight tested. north korea updated its constitution in 2012 to declare itself a nuclear power, and its officials consistently state, nuclear weapons are the basis for a regime's survival, suggesting kim does not
intend -- not intend -- to negotiate them away. although intelligence collection on north korea poses difficulties given north korea's isolation, the ic will continue to dedicate resources to this key challenge. it requires some of our most talented professionals to warn our leaders of impending north korean actions and of the long-term implications of their strategic weapons programs. in syria, we assess that the regime will maintain its momentum on the battlefield, provided, as is likely, that it maintains support from iran and russia. the continuation of the syrian conflict will worsen. already disastrous conditions for syrians and regional states. furthermore, on april 4th, the syrian regime used the nerve agent sarin against the opposition in what is probably the largest chemical attack by
the regime since august 2013. the syrian regime probably used chemical weapons in their response to battlefield losses along the hama battle front in late march that threatened key infrastructure. we assess that syria is probably both willing and able to use cw, chemical warfare, in future attacks, but we do not know if they plan to do so. we are still acquiring and continuing to analyze all intelligence related to the question of whether russian officials had foreknowledge of the syrian cw attack on 4 april. and as we learn this information, we will certainly share it with this committee. cyber threats continue to represent a critical national security issue for the united states for two key reasons. first, our adversaries are becoming bolder, more capable, and more adept at using cyberspace to threaten our interests and shape real-world
outcomes. and the number of adversaries grows as nation states, terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and others continue to develop cyber capabilities. secondly, the potential impact of these cyber threats is amplified by the ongoing integration of technology into our critical infrastructure and into our daily lives. our relationships and businesses already rely on our critical -- on social media and communication technologies and on critical infrastructure. it is becoming increasingly reliant on the internet. as such, this raises the potential for physical, economic and psychological consequences when a cyber attack or exploitation event occurs. the worldwide threat of terrorism is geographically diverse and multifaceted, and it poses a continuing challenge for the united states, for our allies and partners who seek to counter it.
isis is experiencing territorial losses in iraq and syria with persistent counterterrorism operations degrading its strength. however, isis will continue to be an active terrorist threat to the united states due to its proven ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world. outside iraq and syria, isis is seeking to foster interconnectedness among its global branches and networks, align their efforts to its strategy, and withstand counterisis efforts. we assess that isis maintains the intent and capability to direct, enable, assist and inspire transnational attacks. al qaeda and its affiliates continue to pose a significant terrorist threat overseas as they remain primarily focused on local and regional conflicts. and homegrown, violent extremists remain the most frequent and unpredictable
terrorist threat to the united states homeland. this threat will persist with many attacks happening with little or no warning. in turkey, tensions in turkey might escalate, rapidly and unpredictably in 2017, as the government's consolidation of power, crackdowns on dissent and restrictions on free media continue. let me now take just a quick run through some key areas of the middle east. in iraq, baghdad's primary focus through 2017 will be recapturing and stabilizing mosul and other territory controlled by isis. isis in iraq is preparing to regroup, however, and continue an insurgence and terrorist campaign even as it loses territory. we assess that iraq will still face serious challenges to its stability, political viability, and territorial integrity, even as the threat from isis is reduced. reconstruction will cost
billions of dollars, and ethnosectarian and political reconciliation will be an enduring challenge. in iran, tehran's public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the joint comprehensive plan of action because it views the deal as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear capabilities. iran's implementation of the deal has extended the amount of time iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. tehran's malignant activities, however, continue. for example, iran provides arms, financing and training and manages as many as 10,000 iraqi, afghan, and pakistani shia fighters in syria to support the assad regime. iran has sent hundreds of its own forces to include members of the islamic revolutionary guard corps and the irgc quds force to
syria as advisers. in yemen, fighting will almost certainly persist in 2017 between huthie-aligned forces trained by iran and the yemeni government backed by a saudi-led coalition. al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and isis branch in yemen, have exploited the conflict and the collapse of government authority to gain new recruits and allies and expand their influence. in south asia, the intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in military assistance by the united states and its partners. this deterioration is undermined by its dire economic situation.
afghanistan will struggle to can urb curb its dependence until it reaches a peace agreement with the taliban. meanwhile, we assess that the taliban is likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas. afghan security forces' performance will probably worsen due to a combination of taliban operations, combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support and weak leadership. pakistan is concerned about international isolation and sees its position through the prism of india's rising international status, including india's expanded foreign outreach and deepening ties to the united states. pakistan will likely turn to china to offset its isolation, empowering a relationship that will help beijing to project influence into the indian ocean. in addition, islamabad has failed to curb militants and terrorists in pakistan. these groups will present a
sustained threat to the united states' interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in india and afghanistan. pakistan is also expanding its nuclear arsenal and pursuing tactical nuclear weapons, potentially lowering the threshold for their use. let me now turn to russia. we assess that russia is likely to be more aggressive in foreign global affairs, more unpredictable in its approach to the united states, and more authoritarian in its approach to domestic policies and politics. we assess that russia will continue to look to leverage its military support to the assad regime to drive a political settlement process in syria on their terms. moscow is also likely to use russia's military intervention in syria in conjunction with efforts to capitalize on fears of a growing isis and extremist threat to expand its role in the
middle east. we assess that moscow's strategic objectives in ukraine -- maintaining long-term influence over kiev and frustrating ukraine's attempts to integrate into western institutions -- will remain unchanged in 2017. russia's military intervention in eastern ukraine contains more than two years -- continues, excuse me, more than two years after agreement. russia continues to exert military and diplomatic pressure to coerce ukraine into implementing moscow's interpretation of the political provisions of the minsk agreement. among them, constitutional amendments that would effectively give moscow a veto over kiev's strategic decisions. in china, china will continue, we assess, to pursue an active foreign policy, especially within the asia-pacific region, highlighted by a firm stance on competing territorial claims in
the east china sea and south china sea, relations with taiwan and its pursuit of economic engagement across east asia. china views a strong military as a critical element in advancing its interests. it will also pursue efforts aimed at fulfilling its ambitious one belt, one road initiative to expand their strategic influence and economic role across asia through infrastructure projects. just a quick look at sub-saharan africa, home to more than a billion people and expected to double in size by midcentury. african governments face the threats of coupes, popular uprisings, widespread violence and terrorist attacks, including from al qaeda and its isis affiliates. in the western hemisphere, venezuela's unpopular, autocratic government will turn to increasingly repressive means to contain political opponents and street unrest. oil has long been the regime's
cash cow, but mismanagement has led to declining output in revenue. we assess the venezuelan government will struggle to contain inflation, make debt payments, and pay for imports of scarce basic goods and medicines. mexico's government will focus on domestic priorities to prepare for the 2018 presidential election while seeking to limit fallout from strained relations with the united states. public demand for government action against crime and corruption will add to political pressure. as cuba heads into the final year of preparations for a historic transition to a next-generation leader in early 2018, the government's focus will be on preserving control while managing recession. cuba, which continues to use repressive measures to stifle human rights and constrain democracy activists, blames its slowing economy on lower global commodity prices, the u.s. embargo, and the economic crisis
in venezuela, a key benefactor. let me just make a statement on the threat from illegal drugs. the threat to the united states from foreign-produced drugs, especially heroin, synthetic opioids, meth and cocaine, have grown significantly in the past few years. this is contributing to previously unseen levels of u.s. drug-related mortality, which now exceeds all other u.s. causes of injurious death. finally, i'd like to make a few importance here that are important to the ic going forward. as you are all very aware, section 702 of the fisa amendments act is due to expire at the end of the year. i cannot stress enough the importance of this authority in how the ic does its work to keep americans safe, and i know that is shared by everyone at this table. section 702 is an extremely effective tool to protect our nation from terrorists and other
threats. as i described in my confirmation hearing, 702 is instrumental to so much of the ic's critical work in protecting the american people from threats from abroad. the intelligence community is committed to working with all of you in both classified and unclassified sessions, to ensure that you understand not only how we use our authorities, but also how we protect privacy and civil liberties in the process. additionally, many of you have asked me as part of my confirmation process about the status of the ic, its effectiveness and efficiency and how it can be improved. as part of the administration's goal of an effective and efficient government, the odni has already begun a review of the entire intelligence community to include the office of the dni and to answer the very questions about how we can make our process even more
streamlined, more efficient, and more effective. my office is proud to lead this review, and i look forward to the confirmation of my principal deputy in order to shepherd this process to completion, and i have total confidence in her that she has the capacity and capability to effectively lead this effort. the recently passed intelligence authorization bill also includes the requirement for a review of the ic, focused on structures and authorities ten years beyond the intelligence reforms of the mid-2000s. between these two reviews, i am confident that i will be able to report back to the committee with constructive recommendations and the best ways forward for the whole of the ic. in the short time i've been on this job, i've learned that the ic is full of dedicated, talented, creative and patriotic men and women who are committed to keeping america safe. we must retain this posture while looking for ways to improve.
in conclusion, the intelligence community will continue its tireless work against these and all threats, but we will never be on mission. although we have extensive insight into many threats in places around the world, we have gaps in others. therefore, we very much appreciate the support provided by this committee and will continue to work with you to ensure that the intelligence community has the capabilities it needs to meet its many mission needs. and with that, we are ready to take your questions. >> director coats, thank you for that very thorough and comprehensive testimony on behalf of the intelligence community. and quite frankly, you make us proud seeing one of our own now head the entire intelligence community, and i want to thank you and marcia personally for your willingness to do that. >> thank you. >> and also we are anxious for your deputy to be considered by the committee. would you please send us a
nomination? >> we are doing our very best to do that, and nobody's more anxious than me. >> i'm sure that's the case. i'm going to recognize myself for five minutes. director mccabe, did you ever hear director comey tell the president that he was not the subject of an investigation? excuse me, did you ever hear director comey tell the president he was not the subject of an investigation? could you do your microphone, please? >> rookie mistake. i'm sorry. sir, i can't comment on any conversations the director may have had with the president. >> okay. general stewart. you heard director coats state on everybody's behalf that there is an expected deterioration of conditions in afghanistan. can you give us dna's assessment
of the situation today in afghanistan and what would change that deterioration? >> thanks, mr. chairman. i pay close attention to the operations in afghanistan. i make two trips there each year, one before the fighting season and one following the fighting season. that way, i get on the ground, my own personal assessment of how things are going. i was there about six weeks ago. two years into taking control of the security environment, they had mixed results in this past year. those mixed results can be characterized -- can characterize the security environment as a stalemate. and left unchecked, that stalemate will deteriorate in the finger of the belligerents. so, we have to do something very different than what we've been doing in the past. let me back out just a little bit and talk about the fact that the taliban failed to meet any of their strategic objectives that they outlined during the
last fighting season. they controlled no district centers. they were able to execute high-visibility attacks, which causes a psychological effect, that has a debilitating effect. they maintain some influence in the rural areas but controlled none of the large district centers. having said that, the afghan national defense security forces did not meet their forced generation objectives. they had some success in training the force. they were able to manage a crisis better than they have in the past. they were able to deploy forces but failed, in my opinion, to employ the isr and the fire support to make them as effective on the battlefield as possible. unless we change something where we introduce either u.s. forces, nato forces, that changes the balance of forces on the ground, changes the fighting outputs on
the ground, or add additional training and advising capability at lower levels than we do now, the situation will continue to deteriorate and we'll lose all the gains that we've invested in over the last several years. so, they've got to get more trainers below the core level, i believe. i'm not sure how far down. they have to get more personnel on the ground, generate greater forces, greater fire support, greater use of isr, or this will, in fact, deteriorate further. >> thank you, general. admiral rogers, every aspect of our daily lives continues to become part of a trick crackable interacting environment now known as the internet of things. in addition, artificial intelligence, or ai, has increasingly enabled technology to become autonomous. what is the ic's current assessment of the ever-changing
capabilities of the internet of things and what it presents? >> so, it represents both opportunity, but from an information assurance or computer network defense perspective, it represents great concern. where the ability to harness literally millions of devices that were built through a very simple day-to-day activity suddenly can be tied together and focused and oriented to achieve a specific outcome. we've seen this with denial of service attempts against a couple significant companies on the east coast of the united states in the course of the last year. this is going to be a trend in the future. it's part of the discussions we're having, i'm in the midst of having some discussions in the privat sector with this is going to be a problem that's common to both of us. how can we work together to try to, number one, understand this technology, and number two, ask yourselves how do we ensure it's not turned around, if you will, against us. >> thank you for that. admiral rogers, i'll probably put this on you as well. section 702 of the fisa
amendments act authorizes the government to target only non-u.s. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the united states for the purposes of acquiring foreign intelligence information. section 702 cannot be used to target any person located inside the united states, and the law prohibits the government from reverse targeting, that is, targeting a non-u.s. person outside the united states specifically for the purpose of collecting the communications of a person inside the united states. the ic uses fisa 702 collection authority to detect, identify, and disrupt terrorists and other national security threats. how would you characterize 702 authority and its importance to the current intelligence collection platform overall? >> if we were to lose 702's
authorities, we would be significantly degraded in our ability to provide timely warning and insight as to what terrorist actors, nation states, criminal elements are doing that is of concern to our nation as well as our friends and allies. this 702 has provided us insight that is focused both on counterterrorism, but as well as counterproliferation, understanding what nation states are doing. it's given us tremendous insights in the computer network defense arena. i would highlight much, not all, much of what was in the intelligence community's asessment, for example, on the russian efforts against the u.s. election process of 2016, was informed by knowledge we gained through 702 authority. >> thank you for that. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i've got a couple questions that i hopefully will only require yes-or-no answers. first, for the whole panel, as the assembled leadership of the intelligence community, do you believe that the january 2017
intelligence community assessment accurately characterized the extent of russian activities in the 2016 election and its conclusion that russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to influence our elections? simple yes or no would suffice. >> i do, yes, sir. >> yes, senator. >> yes, i do. >> yes, i do. >> yes. >> yes. >> i guess the next presumption, i'm going ask this question, is consequently, that committee, or that community assessment was unanimous and is not a piece of fake news or evidence of some other individual or nation state other than russia, so i appreciate that, again, for the record. i warned mr. mccabe, i was going to have to get you on the record as well on this. mr. mccabe, for as long as you are acting fbi director, do you commit to informing this committee of any effort to
interfere with the fbi's ongoing investigation into links between russia and the trump campaign? >> i absolutely do. >> thank you so much for that. i think in light of what's happened in the last 48 hours, it's critically important that we have that assurance, and i hope you'll relay, at least for me, to the extraordinary people that work at the fbi, that this committee supports them, supports their efforts, supports their professionalism and supports their independence. >> i will, sir. thank you. >> in light of the fact that we just saw french elections where had like deja vu all over again in terms of the release of a series of e-mails against mr. macron days before the election, and the fact that this committee continues to investigate the type of tactics that russia has used, where do
we stand as a country in terms of preparation to make sure this doesn't happen again in 2018 and 2020? where have we moved in terms of collaboration with state voting, voter files, in terms of working more with the tech communiy, particularly the platform entities in terms of how we can better assure real news versus fake news? is there some general sense -- director coats, i know you've only been on the job a short period of time -- how we're going to have a strategic effort? because while it was russia in 2016, other nation states could launch similar type assaults. >> well, we will continue to use all the assets that we have in terms of collection and analysis relative to what the influence has been and potentially could be in future.
russians have spread this across the globe. interestingly enough, i met with the prime minister of montenegro, the latest nation to join nato, the number 29th nation. what was the main topic? russian interference in their political system. and so, it does -- it sweeps across europe and other places. it's clear, though, the russians have upped their game using social media in other opportunities in ways we haven't seen before. so, it's a great threat to our democratic process, and our job here is to provide the best intelligence we can to the policymakers to, as they develop a strategy in terms of how to best reflect a response to this. >> one of the things i'm concerned about is we've all expressed this concern, but since this doesn't fall neatly into any particular agency's jurisdiction, who's taking the point on interacting with the platform companies, a la the google, facebook and twitters?
who's taking the point in terms of interacting, dhs i mentioned, in terms of state boards of election? how are we trying to ensure that our systems are more secure. and if you can give a brief answer because i have another question for admiral rogers. >> well, i think the -- obviously, our office tasked and takes the point, but there's contributions from agencies across the ic, whether it's director pompeo to address that and others might want to address that also, but each of us, each of the agencies, to the extent that they can and have the capacity, whether it's nsa through signet or cia through other sources, will provide information to us that we want to use as a basis to provide to our policymakers. relative to a grand strategy, i
have not heard right now of any -- i think we're still assessing the impact. we have not put a grand strategy together, which would not be our purview. we would provide the basis of intelligence that would then be the foundation for what that strategy will be. >> my hope would be that we be proactive in this. we don't want to be looking back at it after the 2018 election cycle. last question, briefly, admiral rogers, do you have any doubt that the russians are behind the intervention in the french elections? >> let me phrase it this way. we are aware of some russian activity directed against the french election process. as i previously said before congress earlier this week, we, in fact, reached out to our french counterparts to say we have become aware of this activity, we want to make you aware. what are you seeing? i'm not in a position to have looked at the rest of the french infrastructure, so i'm really in
a position to make a whole simple declaratory statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator rubio. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. mccabe, can you, without going into any specific individual investigation, i think the american people want to know -- >> all right, there you have it, the first round of questioning from chairman richard burr of the senate intel committee, vice chairman, democrat mark warner. you heard the headline in the first question that senator burr asked the acting director of the fbi, andy mccabe -- did you hear then fbi director james comey tell the president he's not the subject of investigation? the answer from the acting director, he can't comment on any conversations between the president and the former fbi director. >> let's hear from the acting director now. >> simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the fbi from doing the right thing, protecting the american people and upholding the constitution.
>> and this is for all the members of the committee, as has been widely reported, and people know this. lab software is used by not hundreds of thousands, millions of americans. to each of our witnesses, i would just ask, would any of you be comfortable with the lab software on your computers? >> a resounding no from me. >> no. >> no, senator. >> no, sir. >> no, senator. >> no, sir. >> on the director pompeo, on venezuela, which is mentioned in director coats' statements, as all of you are probably well aware, armed civilian groups or colitivos, these militias in the street, have been armed by the regime for purposes of defending, for lack of a better term, the regime from protesters. we are all aware of the maduro regime's cozy relationship with hezbollah, with the farc, a designated terrorist
organization, and links to narcotrafficking. among the weapons and the stockpile, the military in venezuela are iglo-s, a basically russian variant of our stanger missiles. and director pompeo, if you could comment on the risk that i believe exists that as these groups become more desperate, potentially even operate at some point outside the control of the maduro regime, they're running around in the streets also in search of money and food and anything else that they want to get their hands on. the threat of any advanced weaponry such as what i've just mentioned being sold or transferred to the farc, a terrorist organization, sold to drug cartels in mexico, potentially, or even sold to terrorist organizations on the black market. is that a real threat? is that something we should be cognizant of? >> senator, it is a real threat. as we have all seen, the situation in venezuela continues to deteriorate. maduro gets more desperate by the hour. the risk of these coletivo sns
acting in a way that is not under his control increases as well. in a classified setting, i'd be glad to share the details of what we know. we have not seen any of the major arms transfers take place. we don't have any evidence that those have taken place to date, but those stockpiles exist not only in the maduro regime, but other places as well. there are a lot of weapons running around in venezuela and it's a threat to central america in addition to venezuela. >> staying in the western hemisphere for a moment, and this potentially is also for the director, director mccabe, directed to you, director pompeo. i continue to be concerned with the potential and what i believe is a reality of a converted effort by the cuban government to recruit and unwittingly enlist americans, business executives and others, even local and state political leaders, in an effort to have them influence u.s. policy making on cuba, and particularly, the lifting of the embargo. would this be a tactic consistent with what we have
seen in the past from other nation states, including the regime in cuba? >> mr. mccabe may comment as well, but yes, of course. frankly, this is consistent with what we've -- this is the attempt to interfere in the united states is not limited to russia. the cubans have deep ties. it is in their deepest tradition to take american visitors and do their best to influence them in a way that is adverse to u.s. interests. >> yes, sir, fully agree and we share your concerns about that issue. >> and my final question is, with all this focus on russia and what's happened in the past, is it the opinion of all of you, or those of you -- certainly you all have insight on this -- that even as we focus on 2016 and the efforts leading up to that election, efforts to influence policy making here in the united states, vis-a-vis the russian interests, are ongoing, that the russians continue to use active measures, even at this moment, even on this day, to try through the use of multiple different ways to influence the political debate