Gen. James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, says that never in his 50 years of work in
the intelligence community has he seen the United States more beset with intelligence crises around the world than at the present time. Clapper made his comments during a morning meeting with members of the SA to DC 2014 mission.
Clapper principally identified the revelations of former government contractor Edward Snowden, which he said were "terribly damaging" to the United States. Decisions to curtail intelligence operations in light of those revelations combined with budget cuts in the intelligence community have led to "a lot less capacity to keep the country safe." Lack of job security and conflicting messages from the nation's elected leaders, he said, have taken a serious toll on the morale of the U.S. intelligence workforce.
Externally, Clapper identified two primary external threats. First, the threat of cyber attacks on U.S. interests is growing, both from A-team players such as Russia and China and from emerging actors in Iran and North Korea. Second, he said Syria is beginning to resemble Afghanistan in 2000 -- a proving ground for international terrorists for whom he said there is evidence of foreign plots.
The combined lack of intelligence capacity and growing international threat are particularly dangerous. "What we are doing is accepting greater risk," Clapper said. "We are at a far higher risk mode than two years ago."