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U.S Intelligence Agencies Work To Navigate Today’s Complex Strategic Environment

As part of the effort, the strategy calls for sharing more “actionable cyberthreat intelligence to support the defense of vital information networks and critical infrastructure.

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US Intelligence, Privacy
A specialist works at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Va., Sept. 9, 2014. (VOA)

U.S. intelligence agencies trying to plot their course for the next four years are facing an ever more chaotic world, complicated by a weakening of the Western-led international order, rapidly changing technology, and persistent worries over uncertain funding.

The plan, outlined Tuesday in the new National Intelligence Strategy, offers what top intelligence officials describe as both “monumental” and “fundamental” improvements over the previous strategy, and is designed to reassure Americans in uncertain times.

“We face significant challenges in the domestic and global environment,” the strategy cautions. “To navigate today’s turbulent and complex strategic environment, we must do things differently.”

Transparency, ‘speaking truth’

Part of that difference will be a renewed emphasis on transparency and “speaking truth,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told members of the intelligence community while unveiling the strategy.

“We need to reassure the policymakers and the American people that we can be trusted,” Coats said, “despite the stresses that are persistent in the current environment.”

The new strategy identifies two of those stresses as “the weakening of the post-WWII [World War Two] international order,” and what it calls “increasingly isolationist tendencies in the West.”

FILE - Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2018.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 13, 2018.

Former intelligence officials have been quick to blame U.S. President Donald Trump for both, citing his apparent willingness to cozy up to adversaries like Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time criticizing allies on the world stage.

When asked Tuesday whether the report, and calls for speaking truth, were meant as a rebuke for the president, top intelligence officials said only that the trends had been gaining momentum for some time.

“We were looking at a number of these factors,” a senior intelligence official said, pointing to the increase in isolationism along with rapidly changing alliances.

“There were things you could see coming,” the official added.

U.S. intelligence officials also warned concerns about the collapse of the post-World War Two order is just part of a growing turbulence that includes a proliferation of advanced technology that has enabled adversaries, big and small, to close the gap on Washington.

“We see Russia pursuing, with a vim and vigor that I haven’t seen since the ’80s, capabilities to reach us,” a second senior intelligence official warned.

China also is catching up, both with investments in technology and with its concerted campaign to steal industrial secrets and appropriate them for military use.

“They’ve just compressed the timeframe in which new systems can be introduced,” the official said.

Cyberspace, outer space

And while much of the competition with Russia and China has played out in cyberspace, the new intelligence strategy warns the competition over outer space, once dominated by the U.S., is gaining momentum.

Russia and China are pursuing “a full range of anti-satellite weapons, which could degrade U.S. intelligence gathering abilities,” it said.

U.S. officials are additionally concerned about the impact of biotechnology and nanotechnology, which are becoming more readily available and which will also likely be weaponized – and not just by adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, stands ready at space launch complex 40, shortly before the launch was scrubbed because of a technical issue at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Dec. 18, 2018.
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, stands ready at space launch complex 40, shortly before the launch was scrubbed because of a technical issue at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Dec. 18, 2018. (VOA)

​”The ability of individuals and groups to have a larger impact than ever before — politically, militarily, economically and ideologically — is undermining traditional institutions,” the strategy warns.

There is also growing concern among intelligence officials that some of the threats are ready to merge, whether as sudden alliances between near-peer U.S. adversaries like Russia and China, or agreements between nation states looking to outsource some of their dirty work and criminal actors.

To counter that, U.S. intelligence officials are putting a premium on partnerships, both with traditional allies and with the private sector.

“We simply cannot ignore the advantage that partnerships outside the federal government bring,” Director Coats said Tuesday.

Other top officials said in the case of partnerships with private technology companies, the Intelligence Community is hopeful the emphasis on transparency can help.

“This is a world that demands us to have a different conversation,” a senior intelligence official said, noting the intelligence community has already been making a greater effort to share threat assessments with private companies, especially in cyberspace.

Sharing information

As part of the effort, the strategy calls for sharing more “actionable cyberthreat intelligence to support the defense of vital information networks and critical infrastructure.”

Other concerns identified in the new intelligence strategy include continued upheaval from migration and climate change, both of which are “straining the capacities of governments around the world and are likely to result in further fracturing of societies, potentially creating breeding grounds for radicalization.”

The release of the new strategy Tuesday comes with the U.S. government still mired in a monthlong partial shutdown. And while the key U.S. intelligence agencies are funded through the end of September, the strategy warns the failure to provide stable budgets could put U.S. intelligence efforts at risk.

Also Read: US President Donald Trump Made Thousands of False Claims in Two Years

“Continued federal budget uncertainty strains the IC’s [Intelligence Community’s] ability to make deliberative and responsive resource decisions,” according to the new strategy.

“The IC needs to develop methods to efficiently shift resources to mitigate programmatic (fiscal) risk and avoid loss of vital programs, capabilities, and resource investments,” it adds. (VOA)

Next Story

Uber Receives 3,045 Cases of Sexual Assault in U.S. in Year 2018

"We are partnering with RAINN, the nation's largest sexual violence organisation, to design and implement this programme," Uber added

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Uber, bengaluru
Photo shows an exterior view of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (VOA)

Ride-hailing giant Uber has released its first safety review which contains thousands of sexual assault reports. The company has also revealed the changes it was making to make rides safer for its passengers and drivers.

The two-year safety review contains almost 2,936 reports pertaining to sexual assault that Uber received in 2017 and 3,045 it received in 2018.

Notably, the cab aggregator categorises sexual assaults into five subcategories, which are non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, non-consenual touching of a sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part and non-consensual sexual penetration.

In the last sub category, which is rape, the cab hailing major received 229 reports of rape in 2017 and 235 reports of rape in 2018. Throughout 2017 and 2018, the reported incidents occurred on 0.00002% of trips, according to the company.

“Confronting sexual violence requires honesty, and it’s only by shining a light on these issues that we can begin to provide clarity on something that touches every corner of society,” Tony West, Uber’s Chief Legal Officer, said in the review.

“And, most importantly, by bringing hard data to bear, we can make every trip safer for drivers and riders alike.”

Uber
Uber app. Pixabay

The ride hailing major long been under fire for its safety practices.

In its response to making rides safer for its passengers, Uber mentioned developments like its “in-app safety button”.

“We’re rolling out new features that allow riders to verify their driver with a secure PIN code, send a text message directly to 911 operators, and report safety incidents to Uber even before their trip is over,” the company said.

Also Read: Elon Musk Wins in Defamation Trial Over his ‘Pedo Guy’ Tweet

In 2020, the cab aggregator will expand sexual misconduct and assault education to all the US drivers.

“We are partnering with RAINN, the nation’s largest sexual violence organisation, to design and implement this programme,” Uber added. (IANS)