As is tradition, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday to present the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community” (readers can find the full report here).
And what a hearing it was: While reviewing the contents of the report, Coats generated a flurry of unnerving headlines, including the perceived risk that ISIS is planning an attack on the US, that North Korea “is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities” and that Russia and China “are more aligned against the US than at any point in decades.” Many of these headlines countered the official security narrative from the Trump administration.
His remarks about North Korea directly contradict the Trump administration’s official position, and come at an inopportune time, with Trump preparing for a second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam next month.
He also contradicted Trump on ISIS, arguing that “while ISIS is nearing territorial defeat…the group has returned to its guerilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters.” He added that the group is “very likely” to attack the US “at any time.” Trump has argued that ISIS is in ruins after losing “99%” of its territory and has cited this as justification for pulling US troops out of Syria.
Amid these rising risks, US allies (many of which are members of NATO) are gradually seeking more independence from the US due to “changing perceptions on US policies on security and trade.”
Looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, Coats said the intelligence community expects the US’s adversaries to upgrade their election tampering capabilities: “We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests. We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts in previous elections.”
Moving on to technological threats, DNI Coats said “the threat from biological weapons” has become “more diverse” as they can be “employed in a variety of ways and their development is made easier by dual use technologies.” He also warned that in the near future, the US’s adversaries will “expand their use of space-based reconnaissance, communications and navigations systems.”
Technologies like “artificial Intelligence, communication technologies, biotechnology and materials sciences” are changing our way of life, Coats said, but the adversaries of the US “are also investing heavily in these technologies.”
Moving on from Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel also contradicted the administration by telling Senators that Iran is still “technically in compliance” with the Iran deal, though she added that the Islamic Republic is searching for ways to circumvent the deal.
We now wait for the inevitable reports that Trump is “furious” with both Haspel and Coats, and has started the search for their replacements.
The hearing is expected to continue for several hours. Watch it live below: