The director of the CIA does not believe the United States is ready to combat the online propaganda campaigns Islamic State uses to inspire attacks around the globe.
“The one area when I look to the future that concerns me is in that digital domain,” CIA Director John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee today. “[It is] the new frontier, and I do not believe our legal frameworks as well as our authorization structures and our capabilities, are yet at the point to be able to deal with its challenges.”
Brennan briefed the committee on threats to national security in the wake of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Islamic State, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL, has thousands of fighters in its safe havens in Iraq and Syria, but it also paints a carefully crafted image to the outside world, luring recruits even within U.S. borders. Brennan said he fears the U.S. will struggle to keep up with the spread of propaganda that inspired Omar Mateen, a U.S. citizen, to slaughter 49 persons in Orlando, Fla., on June 17.
Law enforcement has not found “direct links” between Mateen and ISIS, but Brennan said that doesn’t matter because the organization clearly inspired him.
ISIS uses sites such as Twitter, Telegram, and Tumblr to seek out sympathizers, Brennan said. He urged senators to engage in a better discussion on how law enforcement can work with tech companies to sniff out terrorists without jeopardizing the personal information of Americans.
“I think the issue around digital security is one of the most complex I have ever engaged with,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “I personally believe it would make America less safe and create economic and national security harm for us to litigate or to mandate [company compliance].”
Heated debates on how much tech companies should have to aid law enforcement began earlier this year.
The FBI asked Apple to assist in unlocking an iPhone 5C used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack that left 14 dead. Apple refused, claiming it would have to create a backdoor method to get around its own encryptions, jeopardizing the personal information of every iPhone.
But Brennan said that debate needs to continue because ISIS attacks against Americans are far from over.
The Islamic State has as many as 22,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria alone and because of its online recruiting could have many more in the West ready to attack Americans.
“Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan said. “In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign.”
With terrorism dominating public discourse since the Orlando shooting, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., asked Brennan about the key security threats he will discuss with America’s next president.
“Cyber, certainly,” Brennan responded. “That individual, whoever is elected, needs to use their all four to eight years to tackle this issue because it’s going to take time in order to come up with the types of understandings that are necessary. Terrorism is going to continue to plague us. And that’s related to the cyber issue and how we’re going to make sure that FBI and NSA and CIA and others are able to do their job to protect this country.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., vehemently rejected suggestions Congress will ever mandate companies like Apple build backdoors into their products. He said government clearly has a role to play with digital security but not one that risks the personal information of Americans.
But others sympathized with Brennan’s request for more cooperation between the private sector and government agencies, claiming the risks are far too great not to figure out a compromise.
“This feud between the tech companies and the intelligence community and law enforcement has to stop,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “The American people don’t understand that for our agencies to … protect them, that comes with a price. And this debate is about what that cost might be and what we’re willing to accept.”
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: June 20, 2016