WASHINGTON – After two decades of prioritizing counterterrorism, US intelligence agencies do not understand and respond adequately to the national security threat posed by China, the House Intelligence Committee concluded in a new report released on Wednesday.
The report, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officials and thousands of analytical assessments, notes that the intelligence community needs to change the way they do business – not just to improve their insights into China, but to better understand the growing importance of China address interlocking non-military transnational threats such as global health, economic security and climate change. “
The report recommends that espionage agencies make better use of open source data, modernize hiring practices, and realign spending priorities. Although the democratic majority of the committee drafted the report, the entire committee approved it in a bipartisan vote on Wednesday morning.
“The United States intelligence community has not adapted sufficiently to a changing geopolitical and technological environment that is increasingly shaped by an emerging China,” the report said. “Without a significant realignment of resources, the US government and intelligence services will not achieve the results necessary to maintain US competition with China on the global stage for decades and to protect US health and safety. “
The report not only criticizes the US espionage agencies, but also shows China as a rogue nation threatening global security and underscores how dramatically the two party’s foreign policy consensus on China has changed over the past decade.
“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has increasingly sought to revise the international order and norms to advance its own strategic interests and undermine those of the United States and the West in general,” the report said. “Militarily, China has pushed for massive modernization – created a blue-water navy, invested heavily in hypersonic weapons, developed its own fifth-generation fighter, and militarized a number of atolls and islets in the South China Sea to bolster its claims.” in the region and building its first overseas military base in Djibouti. “
Also worrying is China’s use of technology to “create a postmodern authoritarian state in which the country’s people are monitored around the clock by their phones and an ever-expanding network of surveillance cameras with face recognition technology. This’ digital authoritarianism ” has not materialized only used domestically, but increasingly also marketed to aspiring authoritarians abroad. “
On Wednesday, the committee released a 37-page report that included a number of editorial staff and said it had also produced a classified document that was more than 100 pages long. The classified version likely addressed a number of intelligence shortcomings too sensitive to publicly discuss, including the serious damage inflicted on CIA espionage in China by a former CIA officer convicted of espionage, and a catastrophic failure of the CIA’s secret communications with its foreign informants. These incidents contributed to the loss of around 20 Chinese agents spying for the United States. Current and former officials have told NBC News about it.
The public version of the report also fails to mention whether intelligence agencies gained insight into what officials in China knew early on about the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, or whether a lack of that intelligence was an intelligence failure. The committee is conducting a separate review of this issue.
Another problem that bothered the intelligence services – but not included in the public version of the report – is the difficulty of spying in China as the government uses the same technology to monitor its citizens: biometric controls at the border, geolocation of cell phones, Video surveillance on the street and face recognition technology.
The committee began examining the issue in May 2019, the report said for two main reasons.
“First, the committee assessed that the IC’s ability to meet emerging intelligence requirements related to near-peer nation-states was stunted, in part because of the United States’ longstanding focus on counter-terrorism and regional issues in the Middle East,” it said the report. “Second, the committee believes that China presents a unique and growing strategic challenge to US national security.”
The review found 23 public outcomes on China and 36 public recommendations, and more than 100 classified recommendations, the report said.
The public report is filled with technical jargon pointing to major, unsolvable problems facing espionage agencies.
For example: “The intelligence community has problems adapting to the increasing availability and marketing of data.” And: “The sharing of information limits the ability of decision makers to develop a common understanding of China’s intentions, actions and likely future behavior.”
Those two mild sentences pose a massive challenge, and what some argue is the intelligence services’ failure to keep up with private industry’s use of information, former officials say. In a world where analyzing vast amounts of open source data provides insightful insights, intelligence agencies continue to care about obtaining and keeping secrets. And these secrets often stay in locked boxes that are inaccessible to other members of the government and that they could possibly use if they only had access.
“Is collected information converted to a digestible format in a timely manner? Are raw data reports stored in accessible locations? Are intelligence processing techniques equivalent or superior to comparable commercial capabilities?” According to the report, the committee inquired.
The answers to these questions are not included in the public version of the document.