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China Represents ‘Unparalleled,’ ‘Severe’ Threat, US Intelligence Officials Warn

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By Kevin Johnson

U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday cast China as an “unparalleled” security threat, warning of Beijing’s increasing efforts to suppress its regional adversaries, expand its military might while racing to achieve technological superiority across the globe.

For the first time in more than two years, top U.S. intelligence officials appeared before lawmakers to outline a daunting global threat landscape that included fallout from the deadly coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s continuing campaign to undermine U.S. influence.

But during a two-hour hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, there appeared to be no dispute that China represented the most serious risk to the United States where officials said Beijing has long sought economic advantage through sustained cyberwarfare.

“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor challenging the United States in multiple arenas, while pushing to revise global norms in ways that favor the authoritarian Chinese system,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate panel. “It also has substantial cyber capabilities that if deployed, at a minimum, can cause localized, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure inside the United States.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray underscored Haines’ assessment, telling lawmakers that active investigations involving China continue to mount, indicating that there were about 2,000 such inquiries underway ranging from cyber theft to economic espionage.

“I don’t think any country poses a more severe threat,” said Wray, who has spoken extensively in the past year about the bureau’s concerns and the increasing volume of investigations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden on Sept. 24, 2015, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
CAROLYN KASTER/AP
"China increasingly is a near-peer competitor challenging the United States in multiple arenas," Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate panel on Wednesday.
“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor challenging the United States in multiple arenas,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate panel on Wednesday.MARK MAKELA, GETTY IMAGES

The gathering of the government’s top intelligence leaders to publicly discuss the current threat environment had been part of Congress’s annual hearing schedule, but the Trump administration abandoned the practice amid flaring tensions with the intelligence community.

Avril and Wray appeared with CIA Director William Burns, National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone and Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

COVID-19 pandemic will cause global unrest for years, experts warn

The testimony came following the release of the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, which not only noted the risks posed by traditional adversaries, including Iran and North Korea but a global health scourge in the form of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the report, officials warned the pandemic would continue to test governments across the globe for years to come, “fueling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest and geopolitical competition.”

“No country has been completely spared, and even when a vaccine is widely distributed globally, the economic and political aftershocks will be felt for years,” the report concluded, referring to the massive virus fallout. “Countries with high debts or that depend on oil exports, tourism, or remittances face particularly challenging recoveries, while others will turn inward or be distracted by other challenges.”

The pandemic has been thrust to the forefront of global threats joining the “disruptive effects of ecological degradation and a changing climate, an increasing number of empowered non-state actors, and rapidly evolving technology,” the report found.

“The complexity of the threats, their intersections, and the potential for cascading events in an increasingly interconnected and mobile world create new challenges for the (U.S. intelligence community).”

Credits | US Today


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