U.S. intel agencies failing to counter threat from China, says House Intelligence Committee report

WASHINGTON — After two decades of prioritizing counterterrorism, U.S. intelligence agencies are failing to sufficiently understand and counter the national security threat posed by China, the House Intelligence Committee concludes in a new report issued Wednesday.

The report, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers and thousands of analytic assessments, finds that the intelligence community must change how it does business — not only to improve its insights into China, but also to better address “the growing importance of interlocking non-military transnational threats, such as global health, economic security, and climate change.”

The report recommends that spy agencies make better use of open source data, modernize hiring practices and re-orient spending priorities. Although the committee’s Democratic majority wrote the report, the full committee approved it Wednesday morning in a bipartisan voice vote.

Click here to read the report

“The United States’ Intelligence Community has not sufficiently adapted to a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China,” the report says. “Absent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government and intelligence community will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable continued U.S. competition with China on the global stage for decades to come, and to protect the U.S. health and security.”

In addition to critiquing U.S. spy agencies, the report offers a stark portrayal of China as a rogue nation that threatens global security, underscoring how dramatically the bipartisan foreign policy consensus about China has changed in the last decade.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has increasingly sought to revise the international order and global norms in a way that furthers its own strategic interests and undermines those of the United States specifically, and the West generally,” the report says. “Militarily, China has embarked on a massive modernization drive — creating a ‘blue water’ navy, investing heavily in hypersonic weapons, developing its own fifth-generation fighter, militarizing a series of atolls and islets in the South China Sea to strengthen its claims in the region, and building its first overseas military base in Djibouti.”

Also disturbing, the report says, is China’s use of technology to create “a post-modern authoritarian state in which the country’s population is monitored around the clock through their phones and an ever-growing network of surveillance cameras equipped with facial-recognition technology. This ‘digital authoritarianism’ has not only been deployed at home, but has been increasingly marketed to aspiring authoritarians abroad.”

On Wednesday the committee made public a 37-page report that included a number of redactions, and said it had also produced a classified document of more than 100 pages. The classified version is likely to have addressed a number of intelligence failings too sensitive to discuss publicly, including the severe damage done to CIA spying in China by a former CIA officer convicted of espionage, and a catastrophic failure in how the CIA communicated secretly with its foreign informants. Those incidents contributed to the loss of about 20 Chinese agents who were spying for the U.S., current and former

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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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Locals defend Ocean Terminal garden ‘oasis’ under threat from building work

The Discovery Gardens. Image: Trees of Edinburgh

Locals have spoken out to defend a green ‘oasis’ in Leith from development by Ocean Terminal as part of the Trams to Newhaven project.

The patch of grass and trees was planted when the shopping centre was built in 2001.

It was designed in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens, and features plants representing the discoveries of the “founding fathers” of Scottish botany, including David Douglas and Francis Masson, who both travelled to North America in the early 1800s as part of their work.

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Image: Trees of Edinburgh

Now plans submitted by Trams to Newhaven show the area being replaced with paving and some new young trees.

Leith Harbour and Newhaven Community Council has launched a campaign to “Save Discovery Gardens” and asked local residents to raise awareness and express their objection to the plan.

“During lock-down the garden provided a welcome respite for many neighbours and families who do not have a garden of their own,” the council wrote in a community update.

“Nearly 20 years old now, the garden contains a mix of trees, hedges, climbing plants and flowers, attracting many species of birds and butterflies.”

Conservation campaign group Trees of Edinburgh also called for the area to be saved.

Campaign member Eleanor Harris said: “Gardens are not constructed, they are grown. This makes them literally irreplaceable.

“City gardens are not a luxury, they are a necessity – and with climate change their shading and water-absorption will become more necessary every year.

“That’s why the local residents of Leith Harbour and Newhaven asked Trees of Edinburgh for help to save the Ocean Terminal Discovery Garden.

“Our communities know gardens are irreplaceable – but their protection comes down to a dull word, ‘governance’.

“Does the city which launched the heroic plant hunters around the world have the strength of governance – the clout – to protect the long-term public good from the short-term business convenience?

“I’d like to hope Edinburgh can demonstrate it does.”

Conservation Landscape Architect and blogger Jessica Tivy visited the garden and wrote about its botanical significance on her blog in 2013.

“Representing the discoveries of the founding fathers of Scottish botany, large groupings of individual species are planted to showcase their discoveries,” she said.

“This modern, interpretive garden, provides respite within a commercial complex. Simple signage explains the layout and identifies the plants.

“Vines climb a on framework that is installed on the walls, and lighting makes it a welcoming place.

“Although discreet in its location, this garden has captured an opportunity for tourists and residents alike to discover the many species that these Scottish botanists have introduced to the landscape of Great Britain.”

A spokesperson for Ocean Terminal said: “The regeneration plans for this part of Leith are important for everyone living and working in the area and we are very happy to meet with the community council alongside Edinburgh Trams over this matter.”

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Israel deal protects Bahrain’s interests amid Iran threat, minister says

DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain’s interior minister said on Monday that normalising ties with Israel protects Bahrain’s interests and strengthens its strategic partnership with the United States, amid an ongoing threat from Iran.

“It is not an abandonment of the Palestinian cause … it is to strengthen Bahrainis’ security and their economic stability,” minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said in a statement.

Bahrain on Friday said it would normalise relations with Israel, following the path of the UAE who declared it would do the same a month ago, in moves forged partly through shared fears of Iran.

“Iran has chosen to behave in a dominating way in several forms and has become a constant danger that harms our internal security,” Khalifa said, adding that it was wise to forestall dangers.

The small Gulf state of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is ruled by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family. The government often accuses Iran, ruled by a Shi’ite Muslim leadership, of seeking to subvert Bahrain.

Bahrain has suffered ongoing unrest since a failed uprising in 2011. It is also striving to bring down its deficit.

Manama was bailed out in 2018 with a $10 billion aid package from wealthy Gulf neighbours to avoid a credit crunch. The International Monetary Fund has said it expects Bahrain’s fiscal deficit to jump to 15.7% of gross domestic product this year from 10.6% in 2019.

Bahrain and Israel’s defence ministers held their first publicly acknowledged phone call on Monday, and another pair of ministers separately discussed commercial possibilities between the two countries.

Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Marwa Rashad; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis

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The humble garden could be under threat

Mariusz Maj, horticulturalist at Manulife for 25 years, uses an electric lawn mower in order to trim down a section of grass of the Manulife building in Toronto, on Monday, August 26, 2019.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

When most people think of lawns they picture carefree kids playing in backyards, picnics in well-kept parks – perhaps they even feel a sense of pride at how green and immaculate their own swath is.

But the traditional lawn – manicured, verdant, under control – now finds itself at the confluence of two hot-button issues: climate change and Indigenous rights. Some environmentalists, First Nations leaders and even hobby gardeners are calling for a different approach to how we view and treat the ubiquitous urban green space. It is, they argue, a lasting symbol of how settlers appropriated Indigenous land and culture. And the rigid Western ideal we have imposed continues to hurt the planet and, in turn, all of us. The lawn, some go as far to say, needs to be decolonized.

“What is a lawn but a statement of control over nature?” asks John Douglas Belshaw, a Canadian history professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C.

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“That’s a huge part of settler culture. You see that river there? We can dam that. We can organize that water, we can make that water work for us. It’s essentially the same mindset. I can reorganize this landscape, flatten it, plant lawn, find a non-indigenous species of plant, of grass, and completely extract anything that’s not homogenous, that doesn’t fit with this green pattern and control it … A backyard with a big lawn is like a classroom for colonialism and environmental hostility.”

Changing a landscape to make it suitable for a different incoming culture is a key part of colonization, he says, and that is exactly how lawns in Canada and the United States came to be.

“Lawns were not a popular thing in North America until the late 19th century and they’d become popular in part because immigrants were bringing European traditions of some manicured lawn,” he explains. “Manicured lawns were very much associated with wealth.”

The 1830s saw the first patent for a mechanical lawn mower, in England; by the 1860s lawn games such a croquet were becoming increasingly popular. In the 1920s, gas-powered mowers became available, and after the Second World War a boom in suburbia and chemical fertilizers created a North American culture of responsibility around keeping a clean yard for your neighbourhood. In the 1960s, the introduction of the electric mower helped ingrain expectations.

Every backyard essentially became a private park – and a mark of respectability.

The Veterans’ Land Administration helped returned [World War II] servicemen to settle on the land. Former RCCS Corporal H. R. Shaver had son Brian are seen smartening up the front lawn of their new property, September 1949.

Gilbert Milne/Handout

“Where the lawns come from is from the property ownership mentality, that we can own property,” says

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