Nation Faces High Level of Threats, Intelligence Chief Tells UT Austin Crowd

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats says the diversity of threats the United States is facing has never been greater.

“It is important and imperative that the intelligence committees and the intelligence people need to address these threats, particularly threats that are coming to us through electronic transmission,” Coats said.

Coats spoke at the University of Texas at Austin’s Intelligence Studies Project spring symposium, focused on the ongoing challenges the nation’s intelligence community is facing. He told the audience one of the key threats right now is North Korea’s military nuclear weapons program.

“While some recent developments offer some glimpse of a positive resolution to the conflict with North Korea, I’m one who believes we need to be clear-eyed and very sober about the reality of the situation,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to have been in the mix of efforts that have taken place to address the North Korea race toward nuclearization.”

Russia and its continued work to undermine Western democracies, along with other violations, demonstrate a “disregard for life,” Coats said.

“We’ve initiated a significant program to send their agents home,” he said. “We were joined by our western allies. We were joined by other nations.”

Thursday, Russia announced it was shutting down the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg after the U.S. decided to close the Russian consulate in Seattle.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced Coats at the symposium. He hopes Coats’ remarks will encourage students to consider in the intelligence community.

Cornyn also said as lawmakers continue delving into the issue of cybersecurity and try to find a solution to protect privacy, the goal must be to create a coherent national strategy to deal with it.

“We’re an open society,” Cornyn said. “People are not accustomed to having their personal communications hacked, but that’s exactly what’s happening.”

But Cornyn also says he realizes future fixes won’t come easy because the internet has flourished and provided a means of communication in various ways without intense regulations.

“This is a conundrum for us — knowing exactly what the right touch is when it comes to regulation is going to be a challenge,” Cornyn said.

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