US intelligence chiefs say China is likely to put pressure on Taiwan and try to US | to undermine CNN politics



US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told Congress on Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to put pressure on Taiwan and try to undermine US influence in coming years as he begins a third term as president.

As Beijing has stepped up its public criticism of the US, Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the intelligence community believes China still believes it “benefits most from avoiding a spiral of tensions and by promoting stability in its relationship with the United States”.

Haines and the other top intelligence officials — CIA Director William Burns, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of Defense Intelligence Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier and NSA Director General Paul Nakasone — testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday during the panel’s annual public global threats. to belong.

Haines went through the global challenges facing the US – from China and Russia to Iran and North Korea – along with the risks associated with cyber and technology, as well as authoritarian governments.

China was one of the top concerns of senators at the hearing, where Haines and the other intelligence chiefs were pressured on everything from China’s global ambitions to the risks of TikTok and the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan. China.

Russia’s war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-term intentions were another important point, as Haines warned that Putin could entrench for the long haul because the Russian military cannot make territorial gains.

The U.S. intelligence community believes Russia “probably doesn’t want a direct military conflict with U.S. and NATO forces, but there is a possibility that it will,” the intelligence community’s unclassified annual threat assessment report released Wednesday said. US intelligence leaders testified about it.

“Russian leaders have so far avoided taking actions that would extend the conflict in Ukraine beyond Ukraine’s borders, but the risk of escalation remains significant,” the report said.

Haines said in her testimony that the conflict in Ukraine has become a “wearying war of attrition in which neither side has a definitive military advantage,” but said Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely to continue for years to come.

“We do not foresee that the Russian army will recover enough this year to make major territorial gains, but Putin most likely calculates that time is working in his favour, and that extending the war, including possible lulls in the fighting, may be the best remaining path. is. to ultimately secure Russia’s strategic interests in Ukraine, even if it takes years,” Haines said.

Haines explained that Russia is unlikely to be able to sustain even its currently modest level of offensive operations in Ukraine without additional mandatory mobilization and third-party munitions.

“They can go completely over to holding and defending the territories they now occupy,” Haines said

Haines called Putin’s “nuclear saber-clatter” an attempt to “dissuade the West from providing additional aid to Ukraine.”

“He will likely still be confident that Russia can ultimately defeat Ukraine militarily and wants to prevent Western support from tipping the balance and forcing a conflict with NATO,” she said.

But with Russia dealing “extensive damage” from its war in Ukraine, Moscow will become more dependent on its nuclear, cyber and space capabilities, US intelligence officials said in their report.

Heavy battlefield losses in Ukraine “has diminished Moscow’s conventional capabilities on the ground and in the air and increased its reliance on nuclear weapons,” the report said.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence panel, argued that TikTok “poses a substantial national security threat to the country of a kind that we have not dealt with in the past.”

The Chinese government could use TikTok to monitor data on millions of people and use the video app to shape public opinion if China invaded Taiwan, Wray told the panel on Wednesday.

Wray responded affirmatively to questions from Rubio about whether TikTok would give Beijing widespread control over data and be a valuable tool for exerting influence in the event of war in the Taiwan Strait.

“The most fundamental piece that cuts across all those risks and threats that you mentioned that I think Americans need to understand is that something that is very sacred in our country – the difference between the private sector and the public sector – that is a line which is non-existent in the way the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] works,” Wray said.

Rubio and Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, also pressed intelligence chiefs about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in light of a new assessment from the energy department, made with low confidence, that the pandemic was likely due to of a lab leak in Wuhan.

Haines said the intelligence community is still seeking additional information to determine the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, but reiterated that there is currently no consensus among US intelligence agencies.

“There is broad consensus in the intelligence community that the outbreak is not the result of a bioweapon or genetic engineering. What there is no consensus on is whether it’s a lab leak, essentially as Director Wray pointed out, or natural exposure to an infected animal,” Haines said.

Collins, a proponent of the laboratory leak theory, argued that the two theories should not carry equal weight.

“I just don’t understand why you insist on behalf of the intelligence community that these are two equally plausible explanations. They just aren’t,” Collins said.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, said the committee still had “unfinished business” with the investigation into the handling of classified documents, reiterating that the committee still had to see the documents taken from the offices and homes of president Joe Biden, former president Donald Trump, and former vice president Mike Pence.

“I think I speak for everyone on both sides of the aisle on this committee, we still have unfinished business regarding the classified documents we need to enable this intelligence committee to effectively oversee its job on the intelligence oversight,” Warner said during his opening remarks at the commission’s annual global threats hearing.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, asked Haines and Wray why they hadn’t personally looked at all the classified documents that had been found. They replied that they had both looked at some, but not all, of the documents.

Wray said he went through a “reasonably meticulous list” of all the documents with “detailed information about the contents,” while noting that the FBI had teams experienced in mishandling cases involving classified documents.

At the end of Wednesday’s public hearing, both Warner and Rubio urged intelligence chiefs to allow the committee access to the classified documents so they could properly oversee the intelligence community’s damage assessment of mishandling the classified information. material.

“How can we ever monitor whether you’ve assigned the right risk assessment and whether the mitigation is appropriate — how can we do that if we don’t know what we’re talking about?” Rubio said. “A special counsel cannot veto the ability of Congress to do its job. It just can’t happen. It will not happen. And so it will change the nature of the relationship between this committee.”

Transnational racially and ethnically motivated extremists, including neo-Nazis and white supremacists, “remain the most deadly threat to American persons and interests,” the intelligence community said in its new report.

The report says this largely “decentralized movement” “poses a significant threat to a number of U.S. allies and partners through attacks and propaganda espousing violence.”

“These actors are increasingly seeking to sow social divisions, support fascist-style governments and attack government institutions. The transnational and loose structure of RMVE organizations challenges local security forces and creates resilience to disruptions,” the report said, referring to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist groups.

The report also raises concerns that a protracted conflict in Ukraine could provide foreign racially and ethnically motivated extremists with “opportunities to access battlefield experience and weapons”.

Cotton questioned Haines skeptically about the assessment, arguing that fentanyl deaths were deadlier in the US. Haines responded that while fentanyl caused more deaths, the report was linked to terrorist threats.

“But in the context of terrorism, is your conclusion that racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists pose a more deadly threat to Americans than ISIS or Al Qaeda or Hezbollah?” Cotton asked.

Haines noted that previous reports had made the same assessment, as racially and ethnically motivated extremists were similarly listed as the most deadly threat to American persons and interests in the 2022 version of the intelligence community’s report.

“It’s just a matter of how many people, how many American persons are killed or injured as a result of attacks,” Haines said.

“I find this amazing,” Cotton said at the end of his questioning.

This story was updated on Wednesday with additional information.

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