U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. the vice-chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, took part in a hearing on worldwide threats to U.S. national security this week.
Rubio’s opening remarks were as follows.
“I join the Chairman in welcoming the witnesses to this morning’s hearing. Director Haines, General Nakasone, General Berrier, Director Burns, and Director Wray – each of you will play a crucial role today in sharing with this Committee – and importantly, the American public- the Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats confronting the United States and its interests around the world.
“What distinguishes this hearing from so many others is that this hearing is intended to be an unvarnished presentation by an apolitical Intelligence Community of the very real national security threats that this country faces.
“On that basis alone, this hearing is essential. While the threat landscape has changed drastically since the Committee began holding this annual hearing in 1995, two things have remained constant: first, there are always adversaries who seek to harm the U.S., and second, the Intelligence Community will always be counted on to rise to the challenge of identifying how, when, and why those adversaries will strike. It’s your job to tell us what the threats are so we can make informed decisions about countering them. Correspondingly, it’s our job to make sure you have everything you need to track these threats.
“In view of that opportunity, I hope to hear more from you today ? both here and in this afternoon’s closed session ? about how this Committee, and the Senate more broadly, can best support you in terms of resourcing and policy direction.
“The nation-state actors who have endeavored to undermine the United States, both here and abroad, have remained largely the same over the years, with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea always looking for new ways to inflict damage upon the United States. Rapidly evolving technology has benefited the U.S. in myriad ways, but it has also advantaged our adversaries – none of whom are restrained by our commitment to the rule of law or guided by our moral compass and principles when it comes to utilizing deep fakes, advanced data analytics, disinformation, artificial intelligence, and more. The cyber threat we face is real in both our government networks and U.S. critical infrastructure. As a government we need a more explicit cyber deterrence policy that will clearly set expectations for accepted cyber behavior and response.
“Today’s technology allows our adversaries to wreak maximum havoc at minimal cost. The SolarWinds hack illustrates how easily U.S. infrastructure can be compromised, and it is not hard to imagine how much destruction could be levied if our adversaries were determined to conduct a cyberattack beyond espionage on our power grids or water supply.
“Theft of U.S. innovation threatens to increase the economic competitiveness of our adversaries at the expense of the American economy. China, for example, as part of its “Military-Civil fusion” strategy, has proven itself adept at finding ways for its agents to extract proprietary information from private corporations, and it takes full advantage of the robust, U.S. scientific research and development industry that capitalism has fostered by sending agents or threatening and compelling well-meaning Chinese students who study at our laboratories and universities to steal research and take it back to China for the benefit of the Communist Party. I look forward to hearing how the FBI, in particular, is working to confront the massive counterintelligence threat we face from China. We must all work to confront it.
“The insights of the Intelligence Community on the top threats confronting us this year are also critical to better shaping our foreign policy, helping us execute it, and understanding whether or not we are achieving our national goals.
“I would like to take a moment to discuss the Administration’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan starting next month. This decision will have serious, long-term security implications for the Afghans, our NATO partners, and the American people and U.S. interests. Our country is no doubt weary of war after twenty years of an up and down counterterrorism fight but we must acknowledge the tragic irony that this plan will essentially hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban, the very group that allowed Al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a safe haven and launch pad for the terrorist attacks against our nation on September 11, 2001 that killed over three thousand innocent civilians that morning. Without U.S. and NATO presence the Afghan government will be forced to quickly retreat. Frankly, I’m not sure they stand a chance. The Taliban is planning an aggressive fighting season and they will surely see this withdrawal as their victory. The Taliban have not severed ties to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, and no one should think that once they take over the country they will govern it like Switzerland. The American people have given over 2,000 of our best and brightest and hundreds of billions of dollars to this effort.
“The vast majority of my colleagues and I have never been for an arbitrary withdrawal. In 2019, seventy senators voted for a resolution that called upon the (previous) Administration to – quote – “certify that conditions have been met for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from (Syria or) Afghanistan.” Can you or President Biden certify that right now?
“Collectively, you say in this year’s annual threat assessment, “Despite leadership losses, terrorist groups have shown great resiliency and are taking advantage of ungoverned areas to rebuild.” As it relates to global terrorism you say, “We assess that ISIS and Al Qaeda remain the greatest Sunni terrorist threats to US interests overseas; that they also seek to conduct attacks inside the United States, although sustained U.S. and allied counterterrorism pressure has broadly degraded their capability to do so.” I look forward to hearing from the DIA, CIA, and DNI – what do you assess will be the risk to U.S. interests and the American people without sustained pressure against terrorist groups motivated to attack the homeland?
“The Intelligence Community cannot afford to be complacent for even one minute, which makes your jobs — and the jobs of the men and women who you represent —very difficult. The stakes are literally life and death, and it is not often that you get to appear in public so that the American people can get a sense of how important your work is. The IC is depicted a number of different ways in the media, popular culture, and the darkest recesses of the Internet. The Intelligence Community that I know, as someone who’s been a Member of this Committee for over a decade, is made up of patriotic, dedicated professionals who measure their success and failure in terms of Americans kept safe. We would all do well to remember that.
“We have a lot of ground to cover today so I’ll stop there, but I thank you again for your time and your willingness to appear before this Committee. Your objective, candid perspective on the threats that this country needs to be prepared for is essential to the exercise of our oversight mandate, and the basis of sound national security policies that will help ensure the safety and prosperity of this nation. I look forward to today’s conversation.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”