Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 12, 2011

Scanning the threat environment: Skipping along the cusp of chaos

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Risk Assessment — by Philip J. Palin on February 12, 2011

Thursday the nation’s intelligence chiefs appeared before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  Below is the line-up of those testifying. As of February 12 only the DNI’s testimony is linked on the Committee’s website (and below).   I cannot — yet — find other prepared testimony.

Media and partisan attention has, as usual, focused less on the substance of the prepared remarks and much more on two spontaneous comments by Messrs. Clapper and Panetta.

Given the dramatic events unfolding in Egypt it was inevitable — and really entirely reasonable — that the live testimony would focus mostly on making sense of the immediate crisis.  This opportunity might have been embraced as an opportunity for intellectual humility and honest examination of the innate limitations of intelligence analysis and operations.  But humility does not often make an appearance inside the beltway; nor on rare appearance is humility usually rewarded, quite the contrary.

James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence

Click immediately above for full prepared testimony. Answering a question about the Muslim Brotherhood, he characterized it as, “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”  See more from ABC News and The Telegraph.

Leon E. Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

The CIA Director offered committee members, “I got the same information you did, that there is a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening.”  When a few hours later the Egyptian President decided to spend one more night in office, Panetta’s statement and judgment became a target.  See a thoughtful take by Jena McGregor in the Washington Post.

Michael E. Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center

I cannot find the February 10 testimony to the Intelligence Committee, but you can read the February 9 testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee: Understanding the Homeland Threat Landscape.

Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense

Robert S. Mueller, III, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Back in September Director Mueller testified to the House Homeland Security Committee on Nine Years after 9/11 Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the United States.

Caryn A. Wagner, Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security

In late September 2010 Ms. Wagner testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment.

Thomas A. Ferguson, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Department of Defense

Philip S. Goldberg, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State

If any HLSWatch readers find the missing prepared testimony — or especially good coverage of the hearing — please provide a link in the comments.  By “good coverage” I mean attention to the threat analysis, not just supposed gaffes in answering questions.  With thanks to Librarian Stephanie (see comments) you can also access video coverage of the live hearing from CSPAN.

Retrospectively, over the last year and more the best sustained intelligence and analysis on Egypt has probably been forthcoming from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and especially its Bipartisan Working Group on Egypt.  Carnegie products on Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood — developed prior to the current crisis — are available from the Carnegie Guide to Egypt’s Election.  More current analysis is available from the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Program.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn


Comment by William R. Cumming

February 12, 2011 @ 7:25 am

So again am I in error in concluding based on the testimony in the hearing that a concensus is that 9 years after 9/11/01 the threat has grown even though with different drivers?
Hey we approaching the decade mark so why is the threat trending more and more adverse?
What are the factors affecting the trend line? Maybe I am off base?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 12, 2011 @ 7:31 am

Bill, your comment suggests that somehow we — meaning the US government — can control cause and effect. Why would that be so?

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 12, 2011 @ 9:00 am

I firmly believe it is not our “system” that is hated but our (US) policies.

Comment by John G Comiskey

February 12, 2011 @ 1:30 pm


Agreed, US foreign policy is loathed in many parts of the world. That said, while US foreign policy is inherently realpolitik, it does attempt to foster universal democratic values, the rule of law, and the responsibilities of global leadership.

Bridging the gap between realpolitik and humanitarianism has proven difficult. Pragmatically, the US does and will do what is in the Nation’s interest despite the fact that pragmatism challenges many of the fundamental precepts of the Constitution.

The most recent threat environment is, IMHO, a product of the the flattening world (Friedman, T: a rapidly changing geo-political landscape replete with dangerous nation states and empowered terrorist organizations and individuals.

The US can not and should not sustain its current world leadership role. The greatest threat to the US is maintaining a near-unilateral world policeman posture.

While not a huge fan of the UN, the UN supported (in deed and money) by world leaders to include Russia, China, and India is a step in the right direction.

Comment by Librarian Stephanie

February 12, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

Haven’t found the prepared statements yet, but if you have 2 hours and 28 minutes to spare you can watch the CSPAN archive here: http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/InternationalSecuri

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 12, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

Thanks for the comment John. To some extent I agree. But if you list countries with autocractic leadership and correlate that with economic relationships sometimes seems we KOWTOW to power to preserve business relatioships.

My problem is the realpolitic seems always short term and the other objectives you mention are long term, such as rule of law, universal democratic values etc.

Perhaps if we recognized countries that supported our 1st Amendment that would be a start. Personally I believe PRESIDENT JAMES EARL CARTER’s human rights campaign will hold him in good stead in history. Wilson’s 14 points make interesting reading and are still worthy of thoughtfulness. The notion that countries have interests and not allies seems sound except that seldom is there agreement on what are US interests. And clearly fewer and few power blocks in the US are concerned about more than getting more than their fareshare. We still even in the current depression consume 25% of the world’s total resources each year. What does that mean given the percentage of the world population that lives in the US?

Tough choices for tough times me thinks.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 12, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

Wilson’s 14 points summarized:

1.Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at.
2.Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed.
3.The removal of all economic barriers, and establishment of equality of trade.
Guarantees that national armaments will be reduced.
4.Adjustment of colonial claims, that in determining all such questions of sovereignty, the interests of the people concerned must have equal weight with the claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
5.Russian territory should be evacuated, and Russia welcomed into the society of free nations.
6.Belgium should be evacuated and restored.
7.All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored.
8. The frontiers of Italy should be readjusted along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
9.The peoples of Austria-Hungary should have the freest opportunity to independent development.
10.Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated and restored, Serbia should have free and secure access to the sea, and the relations of the several Balkan states to each other should be determined by friendly counsel, and political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be internationally guaranteed.
11. The Turkish portion of the Ottoman Empire should have a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are under Turkish rule should have an undoubted security of life and an opportunity of independent development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as passage to the ships and commerce of all nations.
12. An independent Polish state should be erected including the territories inhabited by Polish populations, which should have free access to the sea.
13.. The League of Nations should be formed.
Well seem to have missed one. Self-determination later was a sticking point at the Peace Conference.

Perhaps also Churchill’s Atlantic Charter might be worthy of consideration.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 12, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

Atlantic Charter
The Atlantic Charter was negotiated at the Atlantic Conference by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, aboard warships in a secure anchorage at NS Argentia, Newfoundland (located on Placentia Bay) and was issued as a joint declaration on 14 August 1941.

The Atlantic Charter established a vision for a post-World War II world, despite the fact the United States had yet to enter the war.

In brief, the nine points were:

1. no territorial gains sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;
2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with wishes of the people;
3. the right to self-determination of peoples;
4. trade barriers lowered;
5. global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;
6. freedom from want and fear;
7.freedom of the seas;
8.disarmament of aggressor nations, postwar common disarmament;
9. defeat of Germany and other Axis powers.
The Atlantic Charter proved to be one of the first steps towards the formation of the United Nations.

So the question I have is what exactly does the US stand for these days? Truth, justice and the American Way? Some may want something else.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 13, 2011 @ 5:35 am

Our purposes are confirmed by word, deed, and response. Given the recent — and continuing — response, perhaps the following is a helpful expression of national purpose.

From the President’s Speech at Cairo University on June 4, 2009:

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can’t disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that’s why we’re forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That’s why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

I know –- I know — and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations — including America — this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century — and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I’m emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We’ll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I’m announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

Comment by John G Comiskey

February 13, 2011 @ 9:12 am


Agreed, I was remiss for omitting what I perceive as short-term — NIMTOO-not to worry (not-in my term of office [consequences]) so not to worry US governance. Asserted metrics “should” include long-term implications.

If the leaders of the imperial powers during the Scramble for Africa where held to account today, they would be crucified.


Imposition of democracy is not practical.

Promotion of democracy via nudges and discouragement of “undemocracy” via international socio-economic isolation might equate to global democracy. This is the world humanity should seek –not willing? unable?
Requires a degree of selflessness (mutualness) on the part of everyone. I learned that in kindergarten.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 13, 2011 @ 9:18 am

Phil this is a great great comment and suggest you redo as a post and start a new thread. The Cairo speech was a gem. Who knows perhaps it planted a seed in Egypt for democracy. The trouble right now is that the essentially military dictatorship that began in 1952 is now extended for some time–my guess is maybe another decade.

And JOHN! That is why the ICC [International Criminal Court] is so important and why the US must join up. It is a litmus test for US!

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 13, 2011 @ 9:19 am

Oh and PHIL were you on BALI or somewhere else in INDONESIA growing up? BALI is not majority ISLAM unlike the rest of the archipeligo.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>