What’s on the agenda: At the hearing next week, the heads of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the NSA, the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency will be present.
The meeting is likely to be touching countless national security threats, including the widespread SolarWinds hack tentatively attributed to the Kremlin and suspected Chinese hackers breaching thousands of Microsoft Exchange servers; the upcoming May 1 deadline to remove all US troops from Afghanistan; Interference in foreign elections; domestic extremism; and the Biden Government efforts for a possible return to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
Why we haven’t had one for a while: The House and Senate briefings were an annual event until last year. POLITICO initially reported that ODNI officials were campaigning for the hearing – which traditionally included both public and classified parts – to be postponed entirely behind closed doors over fears that responses would be turned into cable news clips that provoke Trump’s anger.
At the last hearing on such threats in 2019, intelligence leaders presented findings that directly contradicted Trump’s statements about the longevity of the Islamic State terrorist group, as well as Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The next day he puffed her up on Twitter, calling her “passive” and “naive” while writing, “Maybe the intelligence service should go back to school!” Trump later claimed his best intelligence chiefs, including then-DNI Dan Coats and CIA director Gina Haspel told him they had been misquoted in the press – even though their remarks had been aired and the footage was publicly available.
Bringing the gang back together: The hearing has been a major source of tension between Capitol Hill and the secret community all last year.
The tug-of-war continued as Trump ran off a number of espionage chiefs. The last, the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, offered to appear in August but limited his remarks to an opening speech before moving the session behind closed doors.
Eventually, time was running out and senators from both parties agreed that it would be inappropriate to hold the session too close to election day and risk the campaign fodder.
The sharpness between the two sides persisted, however, and the roughly $ 2.3 trillion spending package approved by Congress late last year included compromise language in which the DNI would submit an annual assessment of global threats and then agree with others had to appear at a public meeting.
What’s next: The Senate hearing will be an important test of President Joe Biden and his recently appointed The agency’s chiefs, notably DNI Avril Haines and CIA director William Burns, both swore during their confirmation hearings to provide unvarnished information to lawmakers and the president and to oppose any efforts to politicize the work of the 18-person secret community .
“To ensure the integrity of our intelligence community, the DNI must insist that there is simply no place for politics when it comes to intelligence,” Haines said in January.