U.S. Intel Head James Clapper on Greatest Threats in 2012

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Kim Jong Un became North Korea's leader following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, on 17 December 2011. Although it is still early to assess the extent of his authority, senior regime leaders will probably remain cohesive at least in the near term to prevent instability and protect their interests."

Clapper said that the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea has tested two nuclear devices.

On the Arab Spring: Turmoil Will 'Challenge' U.S. Influence, Terrorists Could Exploit Unrest

"The Arab world is in a period of turmoil and change that will challenge the ability of the United States to influence events in the Middle East. This turmoil is driven by forces that will shape Arab politics for years, including a large youth population; economic grievances associated with persistent unemployment, inequality, and corruption; increased popular participation and renewed hope in effecting political change; and a greater ability by opposition groups to mobilize nonviolent resistance on a large scale."

"Meanwhile, the forces propelling change are confronting ruling elites; sectarian, ethnic, and tribal divisions; lack of experience with democracy; dependence on natural resource wealth; and regional power rivalries…This new regional environment poses challenges for U.S. strategic partnerships in the Arab world. However, we judge that Arab leaders will continue to cooperate with the United States on regional security to help check Iran's regional ambitions, and some will seek economic assistance."

"The unrest potentially provides terrorists inspired by the global jihadist movement more operating space, as security services focus more on internal security and, in some cases, undergo transformations in make-up and orientation. Ongoing unrest most likely would exacerbate public frustration, erosion of state power, and economic woes -- conditions that al Qaeda would work to exploit. The ongoing turmoil probably will cause at least a temporary setback to CT (counter-terrorism) efforts and might prove a longer-term impediment, if successor governments view violent Sunni extremism as a less immediate threat than did previous regimes."

On the Cyber Threat to the U.S.: Governments Can't Keep Up with Technology

In his testimony, Clapper notes that cyber threats are likely to increase in the coming years.

"We currently face a cyber environment where emerging technologies are developed and implemented faster than governments can keep pace, as illustrated by the failed efforts at censoring social media during the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Hacker groups, such as Anonymous and Lulz Security (LulzSec), have conducted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and website defacements against government and corporate interests they oppose. The well publicized intrusions into NASDAQ and International Monetary Fund (IMF) networks underscore the vulnerability of key sectors of the U.S. and global economy."

The intelligence chief also notes that computer-espionage is becoming a greater concern with foreign services targeting classified networks that may not be detected.

"We assess that many intrusions into U.S. networks are not being detected. Although most activity detected to date has been targeted against unclassified networks connected to the Internet, foreign cyber actors have also begun targeting classified networks".

On Drinking Water Resources: Shortages, Floods Will Hurt U.S. National Security

During the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national security interests.

Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.

Now and for the foreseeable future, water shortages and pollution probably will negatively affect the economic performance of important U.S. trading partners.

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