The work of intelligence has gotten even tougher after the historic leaks by former defense contractor Edward Snowden, according to intelligence leadership testifying on Capitol Hill this week.
“As a result, we’ve lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared with us by valued partners,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft, and the insights they are gaining are making our job much, much harder.”
Clapper also highlighted the effects leaks have had on the intelligence workforce, noting the toll taken by those who have committed their lives to the pursuit of national security. Government shutdowns, furloughs and salary freezes have had an impact. Add to that the dark cloud of leaks and continued criticism of intelligence community activities, and morale is at an all-time low. Clapper warned that diminished morale, combined with limited resources, will have a corresponding effect on national security.
“The impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified by the substantial budget reductions we’re incurring,” he said. “The stark consequences of this perfect storm are plainly evident. The intelligence community is going to have less capacity to protect our nation, and its allies, than we’ve had.”
Clapper described the leaks by Snowden as the most “massive and damaging theft of intelligence in our history.” Clapper wouldn’t say whether Russia had been given access to Snowden’s stolen documents. His testimony spanned topics from Syria and al-Qaeda to Russia, China and security at the Olympic games.
One thing Clapper did say was that recent disclosures have amplified the need for declassification whenever possible.
“With greater transparency about these intelligence programs the American people may be more likely to accept them,” Clapper said.