Spy community not postured to handle rising China threat, House Intel finds

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the intelligence community’s “capacity to address hard targets like China has waned” after two decades of focusing on counterterrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The nation’s intelligence agencies “have a lot of work to do to fully address the challenge posed by China,” he said.

Wednesday’s report is the result of a so-called “deep dive” the House panel began last year into what it viewed as China’s troubling activities around the globe, including Beijing’s malicious cyber efforts and disinformation campaigns; its exportation of invasive surveillance technology; and the continued threat its intelligence services pose to the security of U.S. personnel and national security information.

A committee official said most of the recommendations for reform were aimed at the senior leadership level. The official added that the panel encountered “different results” among the various U.S. intelligence elements about their focus on China, but declined to say which of the 17 clandestine agencies have been better at tackling China-related issues. Committee officials spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely discuss the panel’s findings.

Among the public recommendations: a formal review of the governance of open-source intelligence within the clandestine community and a broader and more formal effort by leadership to mentor the next generation of China analysts.

The committee official said some of the classified recommendations would be easier for agencies to address, however some contained in the public summary — such as creating a bipartisan, bicameral congressional study group to evaluate how the intelligence community organizes around these issues and how authority is divided up — could take up to a decade to fully implement. The report included 36 public recommendations and more than 100 classified recommendations.

The summary doesn’t mention the kind of election interference that has been alleged in recent weeks by Trump, Attorney General William Barr and other senior administration officials. But it does highlight the risk posed by Beijing’s “influence actors” and the government’s propaganda and disinformation efforts around events like the protests in Hong Kong and the Covid-19 outbreak.

China’s “disinformation evolution — in conjunction with the multitude of foreign influence threats and state-backed disinformation activity emanating from Russia, Iran, and other adversaries — will set the stage for further assaults on the truth, damaging the United States’ ability to advance its policies abroad and effectively engage with American citizens,” the summary states.

A second Democratic committee official said the origin of the examination could be traced back to the panel’s 2012 bipartisan report that concluded Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE were a national security threat.

The release of the report also comes as the White House is in the midst of legal wrangling over President Donald Trump’s recent executive order barring access to the popular Chinese mobile app TikTok, citing national security concerns. Earlier this week a federal judge said the administration “likely” exceeded its authority when it tried to impose restrictions on the short form

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