The Biggest Security Threats to the US Are the Hardest to Define

The Biggest Security Threats to the US Are the Hardest to Define

It's been two years since the heads of the top US intelligence agencies last came to Congress for an update on global threats; they skipped 2020 amid tensions with former president Donald Trump. In the Biden administration, though, the public hearing was back on Wednesday. Their message: With sprawling crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, the gravest threats to US national security have ballooned into complicated and interconnected specters that the intelligence community can only warn about.

In a public hearing before the Senate intelligence committee, and a corresponding report released on Tuesday, directors of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, and FBI laid out their agencies' assessments. They highlighted cybersecurity and offensive hacking as a major topic in light of the SolarWinds attacks, which they firmly attributed to Russia. They also pointed to technological innovation, particularly advances from China, that threaten to undermine the security of US infrastructure. 

“The problem of erosion of democracies is a very real one in many parts of the world.”

CIA director William Burns

The directors also emphasized that where authoritarian governments wield technical mechanisms for digital control, such as tools for invasive surveillance, democracies struggle to emerge and endure. And as anti-democratic movements sweep the world, and as US adversaries like Iran and North Korea expand their digital and kinetic arsenals, the US faces an increasingly complicated geopolitical clima ..