America’s 17 intelligence agencies’ “Worldwide Threat Assessment” was delivered to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 29.
With Valentine’s Day coming up on Feb. 14, the timing was inappropriate. The frightening news should have been delivered on Halloween.
The agencies have compiled a horrific list of the fears they worry about night and day, including terrorism, climate change, hostile foreign powers, rising nationalism, illegal drugs, cyber attacks and organized crime.
Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the committee members, and the world, that those threats will “expand and diversify” in 2019.
Here are some of the comments from the agencies’ report:
North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons program. “Its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats said.
Iran is not close to building a nuclear weapon or trying to. “We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” the report says.
The agencies noted, climate change is real and a global security problem: “Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”
The Islamic State is both large and not defeated. In another editorial, we reported that in Syria, ISIS had been downsized to a few hundred fighters, but the threat report says the group “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses.”
The assessment said that news about chaos in the European Union, Brexit and the rise of nationalism across Europe, are also all major objectives of Russian foreign policy.
“The Kremlin is stepping up its campaign to divide Western political and security institutions and undermine the post-World War II international order,” Coats said. “We expect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and use social media to attempt to divide our societies.”
China is stealing trade secrets, spying and expanding its military and economic reach. From building islands in the South China Sea, to working more closely with Russia than at any time since the mid-1950s, China has a “long-term strategy to achieve global superiority,” Coats said.
The report said Iran almost certainly will continue to develop and maintain terrorist capabilities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries.
Instability in South and Central America is concerning.
“Flagging economies, migration flows, corruption, narcotics trafficking and anti-U.S. autocrats will present continuing challenges to U.S. interests, as U.S. adversaries and strategic competitors seek greater influence in the region,” the report stated.
Coats told the lawmakers that the scope and severity of the parade of horribles in the assessment — even space weapons — reflect a world order that may be strained to the point of fracture.
From cyberspace to pandemic diseases, the biggest challenge facing leaders in Washington isn’t identifying threats to the homeland.
“It is increasingly a challenge to prioritize which threats are of greatest importance,” the report said.
It also warned that “Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities.”
We apologize to all Americans who would like to read some good news, but the agencies have cited the well-researched facts of the situation. That’s the reality.