Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Peters, and distinguished Members of the Committee, it is my honor to testify on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address today’s emerging worldwide threats.
First, let me briefly touch on my role – I serve as Chief Intelligence Officer and Under Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. I am responsible for ensuring the Secretary, our 22 DHS Components, and our homeland security partners have access to the intelligence they need to keep the country safe. My focus is to ensure the unique tactical intelligence from the DHS Intelligence Enterprise is shared with operators and decision-makers across all levels of government so they can more effectively mitigate threats to the homeland. My office generates intelligence that is unbiased and based on sound analytic judgments that meets Intelligence Community standards.
I will speak today about the major shifts in the threat landscape. Specifically, I would like to speak about the threats we face from Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Domestic Terrorism, Cyber Threats, Foreign Influence, and Transnational Organized Crime. Underpinning these threats is increasing adversarial engagement from nation-states such as China, Russia, and Iran.
Domestic Terrorism and Targeted Violence
I want to address one of the most pervasive threats we face in the homeland, which is the threat of targeted violence and mass attacks, regardless of whether it is considered “domestic terrorism” or a “hate crime”. There is no moral ambiguity on this issue. These extremists are often motivated by violent ideologies or perceived grievances, often targeting race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.
Lone attackers generally perpetrate these attacks and subscribe to ideology that advocates hate and violence. They have adopted an increasingly transnational outlook in recent years, largely driven by technological advances, through the use of social media and encrypted communication, to connect with like-minded individuals online. We are focused on identifying the behaviors and indicators that are indicative of an individual at risk of carrying out targeted violence or mass attacks, so that we can appropriately identify and mitigate any violent act before it is carried out.
I was a police officer in Aurora Colorado and a part of the 1999 Denver Metropolitan Police area’s response to the horrific attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. My first-hand experience has shaped my approach to dealing with this type of violence. At the federal level, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are the U.S. Government leads for investigating and prosecuting these crimes, while DHS informs, equips and trains our homeland security partners to enhance their prevention and protection capabilities.
Foreign Terrorist Organizations
Foreign terrorist organizations remain a core priority of DHS’s counterterrorism efforts. We continue to make substantial progress in our ability to detect and mitigate the threats that these groups pose. However, foreign terrorist organizations remain intent on striking the country through directed attacks or by radicalizing the most vulnerable and disaffected Americans. These groups seek to inspire violence, encouraging individuals to strike at the heart of our nation and attack the unity of our vibrant, diverse society. ISIS, al Qaida, and returning foreign fighters represent significant, persistent, and long-term national security threats.
Cyber Threats and Emerging Technologies
Cyber threats remain a significant strategic risk for the United States, threatening our national security, economic prosperity and safety. Nation-states and cybercriminals, are increasing the frequency and sophistication of their attacks and other malicious cyber activity. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are developing and using advanced cyber capabilities in attempts to target critical infrastructure, steal our national security and trade secrets, and threaten our democratic institutions.
The foreign intelligence threat has quickly evolved into one of the most significant threats to our country in decades. U.S. adversaries - including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea - and other strategic competitors will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine US alliances, threaten our economic security, and shape policy outcomes. We expect our adversaries and strategic competitors to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from experience, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in the future.
Transnational Organized Crime
Transnational Criminal Organizations have a destabilizing effect on the Western Hemisphere, by corrupting government officials, eroding institutions, and perpetuating violence. They profit from a range of illicit activity including human smuggling and trafficking, narcotics trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. Their activity has led to record levels of crime and murder in Mexico with a direct impact on the safety and security of our citizens.
I want to address the horrific events in Mexico from the last 24 hours: The reprehensible killings in Northern Mexico of American citizens – including women, children, and infants – is a stark example of how these brutal organizations operate on a daily basis. The violence and disregard for human life displayed by these criminal organizations is as barbaric and gruesome as any terrorist organization around the globe.
Transnational criminal organizations are motivated by money and power. They continually adjust their operations and supply chain to avoid detection and interdiction by law enforcement. Like legitimate businesses — they are quick to take advantage of improved technology, cheaper transportation, and better distribution methods. In many ways, cartels operate with the sophistication of a foreign intelligence service.
I am very proud to oversee the Department’s intelligence efforts and ensure the safety and security of all Americans. I want to thank you for the Committee’s support to the Department. It is a privilege to represent the men and women of The Department of Homeland Security this afternoon and I look forward to your questions.