Warner's agenda for Senate Intel: Rebuilding agencies, not probing Trump

In particular, the government’s top spy agency – the office of the director of the National Intelligence Service – has been “decimated” and “in ruins” over the past four years, he said. Trump often targeted the office, whose last two bosses, Richard Grenell and John Ratcliffe, had little intelligence experience but were close allies of the former president.

Weeks before last year’s election, Ratcliffe released unverified Russian secret service on the concerns of the CIA and the National Security Agency to reinforce Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about the federal government’s efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

However, Warner believes that this tense political moment provides an opportunity to refocus the office established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to be responsible for coordinating the 18 agencies that make up the country’s espionage community.

“It would be a good time to quote a common phrase,” Better back down, “said Warner, noting cross-party concerns that ODNI would become a bloated bureaucracy whose analysts would duplicate the work of other intelligence agencies like the CIA.

“May be [ODNI] shouldn’t be dismantled in exactly the same way as it was three or four years ago when it got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, “he mused.

However, some Democrats say it is too early to just look ahead, arguing the importance of holding Trump and his appointees accountable for abuses they committed during their years in office.

But members of the secret community are not in an uproar over an investigation into the former president’s use of information for his own political ends, said Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former national security attorney with the Justice Department.

“People on my network are asking for ‘What the hell is wrong with SolarWinds?'” She said, referring to the massive cyber campaign by suspected Russian hackers who may have compromised up to 18,000 companies, nonprofits and government agencies (although the It is believed that the actual number of target companies is far fewer.

Cordero said an investigation into this cyberattack was “substantial” while an investigation by the Trump administration would damage the committee’s bipartisan reputation “right away.”

Former Obama-era DHS cyber official Suzanne Spaulding said it made sense that, given the time and resources invested in investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential race, the committee “inevitably” did the Lost control, the intelligence community would shy away from a Trump investigation. However, she suggested that someone may need to conduct such an investigation – possibly the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board or the ODNI Inspector General.

“Assessing how intelligence agencies have been politicized in both the executive and Congress will be important in developing ways to prevent this from happening in the future,” she said.

Former Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats, who survived two and a half stormy years as Trump’s ODNI boss, has spoken to Warner about avoiding digging into the past four years.

“It is progressing. It’s not retaliation … how can we bring it together in the interests of the nation? “said Coats, who served alongside Warner on the Intelligence Committee.” We need to make sure that whether you are Republican or Democrat or Conservative or Liberal, this goes beyond that and is taken into account in ensuring the nation’s national security.

Recovery after the “constant attack” on intelligence

The rebuilding of ODNI is one of several topics that the 66-year-old Warner intends to address in his new role as head of oversight of the country’s national security apparatus. He said he had already discussed the issue with Avril Haines, President Joe Biden’s recently confirmed spy chief.

His appointment comes at a time when the U.S. is facing a growing number of threats both domestically and internationally, including the SolarWinds hack, global competition with China, and a worrying rise in domestic terrorism.

Warner, who served as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Board throughout Trump’s presidency, will also assume the additional responsibility of helping the intelligence services recover from a period of intense politicization – what he calls the “constant attack” of the White House and “political.” Scammers “labeled” like Grenell and Ratcliffe.

Warner credited the two the most The youngest GOP chairs – Richard Burr from North Carolina and Marco Rubio from Florida – had to “go to the bat many times to protect the Intel community from some of the most outrageous things that we hope will never come to light.” He didn’t go closer to it.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle said Warner, who joined the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011, was well placed to run the gavel of the panel based on his experience. The includes Bruising during the Trump administration to re-authorize powerful electronic surveillance tools and expand domestic espionage programs, debates that have often been turned upside down via tweets from the president.

Republican members expressed confidence that Warner, a former telecommunications manager, could maintain the committee’s ostentatious bipartisan character during one of the most politically toxic periods in Washington history.

“For the most part, we almost all share the same priorities for the Intel community and things like that,” said Rubio, the committee’s chief Republican.

Rubio noted that he and Warner were jointly participating in the committee’s 12-hour “roadshow,” which aimed to warn American business communities of threats posed by China.

Rubio said he expected their working relationship to remain what it had been since May 2020 when he was was selected as acting chairman of the committee. “The rules make it impossible to go in one direction without the other side working together,” said Rubio. “My personal view is that it is the highest functioning committee in the Senate, maybe the entire Congress.”

The Virginia Democrat stepped up this week and held the first closed session, which will last 30 to 45 days, and which he refers to as “Intel 101” to all panelists.

The sessions, which can range from full hearings to voluntary discussions, will include current and past Intel executives, as well as outside experts, and examine critical topics such as cybersecurity, signal intelligence, and traditional espionage – including how to manage covert assets if so It is almost impossible for people today not to leave any digital footprints or “dust” behind them.

“I remember being on that committee. It’s a little intimidating for a couple of years, ”Warner admitted. “I didn’t understand how all the pieces fit together.”

A focus on cyber and extremism

Now that he’s got the intelligence gavel, Warner plans to pay special attention to issues like cybersecurity, which only gained immediacy after the SolarWinds hack.

Several Senate committees – including Finance, Justice, External Relations, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs – have requested more information on how SolarWinds’ widespread espionage campaign has affected their jurisdiction.

While Homeland Security seems like the natural way to lead an investigation – the panel’s officials vowed to draft “comprehensive” cybersecurity legislation following the raid – Warner suggested that Intel could eventually lead an investigation.

The Homeland Security Service “will have no insight into the activities of the Russians,” said Warner, explaining why the secret service would likely take on the leading investigative role. “We are just as entitled to cyber as we are to other panels, especially because the attack was launched by a foreign secret service company.

In addition to briefing NSA, FBI, CISA and ODNI about the incident, the panel held an informal meeting with FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia, whose company originally discovered the compromise.

“This wasn’t just an American attack, there were so many other countries that were attacked,” Warner said.

Another priority is to examine the growth of “anti-government extremists” not just in the US but around the world in countries like Poland, France and Hungary and how Moscow is reinforcing its views. In the US, Warner specifically cited the “conspiracy theorists” at QAnon, a fringe movement that advocates the idea that Democrats are a satanic cult of child traffickers.

“This is not normal behavior when you have something that seems so far removed from reality has suddenly turned into an organization that believes not single digit millions, but possibly double digit millions? “ he said. “Well, that’s a threat to democracy.”

In her confirmation hearing last month, Haines pledged to work with the FBI and DHS to conduct a public threat assessment of the dangers posed by QAnon.

Warner speculated that the intelligence panel would play a supportive role in any joint investigation into last month’s deadly attack on the Capitol that might involve homeland security, rules and justice committees.

Warner said he wants to continue the work of the Intel panel on misinformation and disinformation, especially on social media platforms, as well as its ongoing efforts to better evaluate Beijing’s capabilities in emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence and 5G.

He also expressed an interest in better protecting whistleblowers and improving the morale of intelligence workers.

Warner promised to “do a lot more than just a normal Intel authorization bill” in order to “put in place better guard rails so that we can prevent this administration or future administrations from politicizing Intel products”.

In preparation for the chairman’s appointment, Warner reached out to current and former officials like Coats, as well as his former number 2, Sue Gordon, for ideas on how to empower an intelligence community tired of Trump’s attacks.

A first suggestion is that bipartisan delegations visit the secret agencies as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic has reached manageable proportions to “fly the flag” and attend town hall events with career analysts and officials.

Warner said the apparitions would have the message, “Hey, we’ve got your back. You should never feel the pressure you felt under the last crowd. “

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