Press Releases

WASHINGTON - Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following joint statement regarding future briefings to the Committee from the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI):

“The Senate Intelligence Committee plays a critical role in conducting oversight of the Intelligence Community, and intelligence agencies have a legal obligation to keep Congress informed of their activities. Last month, Director Ratcliffe reaffirmed that the Senate Intelligence Committee will continue receiving briefings, including in-person, on all oversight topics – including election matters. As we have in the past, the Committee will continue to expect timely and complete information from our intelligence agencies.” 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s decision to cancel all election security briefings for Congress:

“The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has an obligation to brief Congress on threats to our elections. Director Ratcliffe’s outrageous decision to stop providing briefings to Congress is an unprecedented attempt to politicize an issue – protecting our democracy from foreign intervention – that should be non-partisan. 

“Russia interfered in our elections in 2016, and they’re doing it again in 2020. One the lessons we should draw from what happened in 2016 is that Congress and the American public need to know more information about the election interference threat — not less.” 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the below statement on the release of the fifth and final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation titled, “Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities”:

“After more than three and a half years of work, millions of documents, and hundreds of witness interviews, I’m proud that the Committee’s report speaks for itself.

“At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date – a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections. I encourage all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions. 

“This cannot happen again. As we head into the heat of the 2020 campaign season, I strongly urge campaigns, the executive branch, Congress and the American people to heed the lessons of this report in order to protect our democracy.”

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U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the fifth and final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation titled, Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities,” which examines Russia’s attempts to gain influence in the American political system during the 2016 elections.

The Committee’s investigation totaled more than three years of investigative activity, more than 200 witness interviews, and more than a million pages of reviewed documents. All five volumes total more than 1300 pages. 

You can read “Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities” here

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s previous reports:

 

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Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following joint statement after the Committee voted to adopt the classified version of the fifth and final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation:

“Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt the classified version of the final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation. In the coming days, the Committee will work to incorporate any additional views, as well as work with the Intelligence Community to formalize a properly redacted, declassified, publicly releasable version of the Volume 5 report. We want to thank the Committee’s Russia investigative staff for their years of diligent, hard work on this critical matter.” 

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s previous reports:

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WASHINGTON – Today, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provide information to the Committee about the role that its Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has played in responding to the protests in Portland, OR. The letter was signed by Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“We have grown increasingly concerned about the role and operations of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) in particular, with regard to the protests in Portland, Oregon.  As a member of the Intelligence Community, I&A is obligated by statute to keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of its operations.  Given the intense national as well as congressional interest in DHS activities related to protests in Portland and around the country, documents and other information related to I&A’s operations should be provided to the Committee pro-actively, and not merely in response to repeated requests or following revelations in the press,” wrote the Senators in the letter, which was addressed to Acting Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy.

The Senators posed a series of 25 questions to the Department, setting an August 6, 2020 deadline to reply:

1.      Of the I&A personnel deployed to, or otherwise who have been assigned to missions connected to the Portland protests, how many are analysts and how many are collectors?  What I&A mission centers do they work for?  What backgrounds and training do they have that are relevant to the Portland mission? 

2.      Has I&A employed any contractors for the Portland mission?  If yes, please describe their roles.

3.      Where have I&A personnel in Portland physically worked and with whom have they been co-located?

4.      Please provide a breakdown of the DHS components I&A personnel have supported and a description of the support provided to each such component.  To what extent does the chain of command of I&A personnel include those components, as opposed to I&A Headquarters?

5.      Please describe interactions and coordination between I&A personnel in Portland and state and local law enforcement and political authorities.

6.      Please describe interactions and coordination between I&A personnel in Portland and federal law enforcement, including elements of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

7.      A July 9, 2020, I&A document describing “Portland Surge Operation” states that I&A personnel may “collect from incarcerated, detained, or arrested persons” so long as the collection is conducted overtly.  You stated during a briefing for Committee staff on July 23, 2020, that I&A personnel have not engaged in custodial debriefings.  Please confirm.  Have I&A personnel been indirectly engaged with detainee operations, for example, by providing collection requirements or requests, or suggested lines of questioning, to detaining authorities or otherwise requesting or receiving information related to detainees?

8.      You also stated during the July 23, 2020, briefing that I&A personnel have not interacted with protesters in any way.  Please confirm.

9.      During the July 23, 2020, briefing, you stated that I&A had neither collected nor exploited or analyzed information obtained from the devices or accounts of protesters or detainees.  Please confirm.

10.  Please describe I&A’s open source collection.  What rules of engagement apply to open source collection in the context of protests in which the vast majority of participants are exercising their First Amendment rights?  What rules or guidance does I&A follow to distinguish actual threats of violence or vandalism from political hyperbole, and what training do I&A personnel receive on the implementation of that guidance?

11.  What processes does I&A have to vet the authenticity of open source threat reporting?  What processes does I&A have to vet the authenticity of social media accounts in which individuals take credit for acts of violence or vandalism, on their own behalf or on behalf of an ideology?  How has this vetting been conducted prior to disseminating this information, or using it as a basis for analysis?

12.  Have I&A operations in connection with the Portland protests been reviewed by an I&A Intelligence Oversight Officer, DHS’s Privacy Office and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, or any other DHS personnel responsible for reviewing the impact of I&A operations on the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons?  If yes, please describe those reviews.

13.  The “Job Aid” document authorizes collection of information that “informs an overall assessment that threats to [law enforcement] personnel, facilities, or resources will materialize.”  The document includes a similar explicit authorization with regard to public monuments, memorials and statues.  Can I&A collect information on U.S. persons who are not threatening violence and, if so, under what circumstances?

14.  Has I&A conducted network analysis linking individuals suspected of violence?  If yes, please describe how that analysis has been conducted while not collecting on U.S. persons not suspected of violence?  Please provide any such analysis.

15.  During the July 23, 2020, briefing, you stated that I&A is able to track those who engage in violent acts because “it is the same people who come out after midnight.”  Please describe how I&A is able to differentiate between peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights and those individuals who have planned or conducted acts of violence, and what information or intelligence is used in making this determination.

16.  Has I&A produced or contributed to targeting packages or dossiers on particular suspects?  If yes, please provide these to the Committee.

17.  On July 16, 2020, the FAA put in place flight restrictions over Portland to prevent drones from flying below 1000 feet.  The FAA cited a DHS conclusion that private drone use presented a threat.  Please provide any intelligence to support that conclusion.

18.  Have I&A personnel obtained or analyzed data from overhead surveillance of protests?  If yes, please describe.

19.  On July 25, 2020, you sent a memo to I&A personnel in which you stated that individuals in Portland committing acts of violence are “VIOLENT ANTIFA ANARCHIST INSPIRED (VAAI).”  Please describe the origin of this designation and the analytical process whereby it was developed and applied.

20.  Your July 25, 2020, memo stated that the VAAI designation was informed by FIRs, OSIRs, “baseball cards” and FINTEL.  Please provide these documents to the Committee.

21.  Please describe how I&A has applied its retention guidelines to information related to the Portland protests.  What information has been marked for indefinite retention?  How has I&A sought to apply its 180-day retention limitation to information it has disseminated?

22.  Please describe what I&A raw reporting has been disseminated to what entities, whether DHS, federal law enforcement, state or local or municipal law enforcement, or the Intelligence Community.

23.  Are there limits to I&A’s role in protecting public monuments, memorials or statues absent threat of violence to persons?  Does it matter whether such monuments, memorials or statues are on federal, state, local, or private property?

24.  What other cities has I&A deployed to, or plans to deploy to in response to protests or associated threats of violence?  Please provide any documentation or guidance related to any such deployments.

25.  According to press accounts, I&A disseminated Open Source Intelligence Reports on a journalist and a legal scholar who had written about I&A.  If that is accurate, provide those reports, a complete description of who they were disseminated to, and an explanation of the purpose and basis for the reports and their dissemination under law and I&A’s intelligence oversight guidelines, including with regard to the identification of any U.S. persons within them.

A copy of the letter is available here

 

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Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) made public newly declassified material as part of the report titled “Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment,” the fourth and penultimate volume in the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation. The newly declassified material comes as a result of recent Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) disclosures. Rubio and Warner released the following joint statement:

“Recently, the ODNI and DOJ publicly released information relevant to the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation. As such, we asked them to reconsider the classification of parts of Volume 4 of the Committee’s bipartisan report, and today we are making public that newly declassified material.”

You can read the additional declassifications of “Volume IV: Review of Intelligence Community Assessmenthere.

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s previous reports:

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Washington, DC – Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) issued a joint statement following the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) releasing an update on election security and foreign threats one hundred days before the election: 

“Almost exactly four years ago, we first observed the Russians engaging in covert actions designed to influence the presidential race in favor of Donald Trump and to sow discord in the United States.  Now, the Russians are once again trying to influence the election and divide Americans, and these efforts must be deterred, disrupted and exposed.

“The statement just released by National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) Director William Evanina does not go nearly far enough in arming the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers are seeking to influence our political process. The statement gives a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together. The statement, moreover, fails to fully delineate the goal, nature, scope and capacity to influence our election, information the American people must have as we go into November. To say without more, for example, that Russia seeks to ‘denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment' in America’ is so generic as to be almost meaningless. The statement omits much on a subject of immense importance.

“In our letter two weeks ago, we called on the FBI to provide a defensive briefing to the entire Congress about specific threats related to a concerted foreign disinformation campaign, and this is more important than ever.  But a far more concrete and specific statement needs to be made to the American people, consistent with the need to protect sources and methods.  We can trust the American people with knowing what to do with the information they receive and making those decisions for themselves. But they cannot do so if they are kept in the dark about what our adversaries are doing, and how they are doing it.  When it comes to American elections, Americans must decide.”

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate approved the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“I’m pleased that the defense bill I voted for provides a 3 percent pay raise for our servicemembers in addition to supporting many critical priorities for the Commonwealth. The legislation authorizes $240 million in military construction projects throughout Virginia and funds advance procurement for a second Virginia-class submarine to support our nation’s military readiness – something I pushed for after it was originally excluded from the President’s defense budget,” said Sen. Warner.

After successfully passing into law reforms to fix the deplorable housing conditions in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth, I have been keeping the pressure up to ensure servicemembers and their families can feel safe in their homes. I’m pleased to report that the defense bill includes language to help guarantee that the private housing companies and the military services meet their obligations,” Sen. Warner said. But our work to ensure our servicemembers feel safe also extends to their time on-duty. That’s why I successfully pushed for a provision mandating reporting on instances of racism and discrimination that our men and women in uniform may encounter while serving our country, and why I’ve been outspoken about giving our military leadership the tools and information they need to combat these destructive biases.”

“And after pushing the Administration for years to extend benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange, I commend my colleagues for joining me in successfully pushing to add Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) list of service-connected presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure,” continued Sen. Warner, who has repeatedly urged the Trump Administration to stop stonewalling critical benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from health conditions associated with their exposure to Agent Orange.

In March, a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found deficiencies in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) oversight of privatized military housing, concluding that the DoD lacked reliable information to provide a full picture of the conditions of privatized housing. Currently, the military departments use a range of project-specific performance metrics to monitor private housing companies’ performance. However, the metrics used, while designed to focus on resident satisfaction and on the quality of the maintenance conducted on housing units, do not always provide meaningful information or reflect actual housing conditions. For example, the GAO found that a common indicator is how quickly the private partner responded to a work order, rather than whether the issue was actually addressed. Ultimately, these metrics matter because they feed into decisions around whether privatized housing companies earn performance incentive fees.

To improve this gap in housing condition metrics, Sen. Warner’s provision in the defense bill requires that the military services review the indicators underlying the privatized housing project performance metrics to ensure they adequately measure the condition and quality of the home. Additionally, the provision requires the Secretary of Defense to publish in DoD’s Military Housing Privatization Initiative Performance Evaluation Report underlying performance metrics for each project, in order for Congress to provide effective oversight. 

In the wake of nationwide protests on racial injustice and reports of growing white nationalist extremism, Sen. Warner pushed to mandate reporting on whether servicemembers have faced “racist, anti-Semitic, or supremacist activity” while on duty. Sen. Warner’s bipartisan amendment builds upon an existing DoD requirement to include in appropriate surveys more detailed information on whether military personnel “have ever experienced or witnessed [or reported] extremist activity in the workplace.” Additionally, in an effort to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce within the Pentagon, Sen. Warner successfully included a provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to do a diversity and inclusion study to analyze the makeup of the workforce, as well as differences in rates of promotion by race, ethnicity and gender, to help develop a stronger and more diverse pipeline of career professionals.

Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also applauded the inclusion in this year’s defense bill of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), as well as his legislation to bolster America’s 5G capabilities and secure the semiconductor supply chain. Additionally, the Senate NDAA includes Vice Chairman Warner’s amendment to provide a secure Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) space for flexible use across the intelligence community, DoD agencies and their contractors. Currently, each agency's SCIF space can only be used by its own personnel and contractors, leaving many secure spaces underutilized.

“This bill also makes critical investments in competing with China when it comes to next-generation 5G wireless technology by providing funding and a model for alternative, Western-driven innovation using an open-architecture, or Open-RAN, model,” said Warner, who co-founded the wireless company Nextel before entering public service. “I’m also pleased that Congress recognizes the need to secure our supply chain and bolster domestic manufacturing of semiconductors.”

The defense bill prioritizes U.S. innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and semiconductors, to compete with countries like China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner teamed up with a bipartisan group of leading national security Senators to introduce the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, a bill that would provide a $1 billion investment in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers such as Huawei and ZTE. Last month, Sen. Warner along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced legislation to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to American soil by increasing federal incentives to stimulate advanced chip manufacturing, enable cutting-edge research and development, secure the supply chain, bring greater transparency to the microelectronics ecosystem, create American jobs, and ensure long-term national security. Language drawing on both proposals was included in the Senate-passed NDAA.

And while I’m glad this bill includes most of the Intelligence Authorization Act as it passed the Committee last month, with just 103 days until the presidential election, I am deeply disappointed that the Senate has failed to take one easy step to protect our democracy. By stripping the FIRE Act from this year’s defense bill, we’re essentially giving a green light to campaigns to accept foreign assistance,added Sen. Warner.

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner pushed to include the Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) within the annual defense bill. The IAA includes several key priorities, including a bipartisan provision championed by Sen. Warner to protect the integrity of the security clearance process from being abused for political purposes, and to enhance contractor insider threat programs.

Sen. Warner’s legislation, the FIRE Act, which would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election, was included in the Committee-passed version of the IAA that passed on June 30. However, Senate Republicans forced the provision to be dropped from the bill before adding it to the NDAA. In addition, Senate Republicans stripped critical protections for whistleblowers who step forward to report wrongdoing within the intelligence community.

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Washington, D.C. — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) applauded the passage of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (IAA) as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, which was approved by the Committee on a bipartisan 14 - 1 vote on June 3, 2020, authorizes funding, provides legal authorities, and enhances Congressional oversight for the U.S. Intelligence Community.

“Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the IAA for Fiscal Year 2021 in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, and I applaud my Senate colleagues for supporting this critical legislation as part of the FY 2021 NDAA,” Acting Chairman Rubio said. “Our nation continues to face ever-expanding threats from hostile foreign actors, including China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. It is vital that our Intelligence Community has the necessary resources, authorities, and personnel to protect America’s national security, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s strong, bipartisan legislation does just that. Our bill also increases government efficiency and represents comprehensive Congressional oversight to ensure that these tools are executed responsibly and cost-effectively.” 

"I am proud to represent many of the men and women in the intelligence community who work every day to make our nation safer, and this bill furthers our bipartisan efforts to help them accomplish their mission,” Vice Chairman Warner said. “I am particularly pleased with the additional reforms we have made to the security clearance process, which continues a multi-year effort to bring that system into the 21st century. I would thank Acting Chairman Rubio and Senator Burr for working closely with me on this bill."

Background:

The IAA for Fiscal Year 2021 ensures that the Intelligence Community can continue its critical work for our country while Congress continues its oversight, including in the following key areas:

  • Confronting our adversaries’ attempts to compromise telecommunications and cybersecurity technology;
  • Development and deployment of secure 5G networks based in open-standards to compete with our adversaries;
  • Identifying corruption, influence operations, and information suppression by the Chinese government, in particular in this critical time for the people of Hong Kong;
  • Uncovering Russian and Eastern European oligarchs’ corruption and illegal activities;
  • Protecting against foreign influence threats and election interference on social media platforms;
  • Creating Intelligence Community-wide policies to facilitate sharing cleared contractor information with private companies to enhance the effectiveness of insider threat programs;
  • Requiring the publication of guidelines for granting, denying, or revoking a security clearance and preventing the revocation or denial of a clearance for reasons of discrimination, political beliefs, or retaliation; and
  • Advancing Intelligence Community hiring flexibilities, student loan repayment programs, and child care for IC personnel.

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Washington, DC – Last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting the Bureau provide a defensive counterintelligence briefing before August to all Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate regarding foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

In the letter, they write:

“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November.”

The full letter can be found here, and the text is below:

UNCLASSIFIED WHEN SEPARATED FROM ATTACHMENT

July 13, 2020

The Honorable Christopher A. Wray

Director

Federal Bureau of Investigation

935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray: 

We write to request that the Federal Bureau of Investigation provide a defensive counterintelligence briefing to all Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate regarding foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. 

We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November. 

Given the seriousness and specificity of these threats, as members of congressional leadership and the congressional intelligence committees we believe it is imperative that the FBI provide a classified defensive briefing to all Members of Congress and that the briefing draw on all-source intelligence information and analysis, consistent with due regard for the protection of sensitive intelligence sources and methods. 

Due to the ongoing nature of these threats, we ask that the FBI provide this briefing prior to the August recess at the earliest possible opportunity, and that your office outline a plan for the briefing by Monday, July 20. 

We appreciate your prompt attention to this important request. 

Sincerely,

 

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Miami, FL — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) issued the following joint statement regarding complaints the Committee receives pursuant to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA): 

“Consistent with its mandate to oversee the activities and programs of the Intelligence Community, the Committee takes seriously all complaints it receives pursuant to theIntelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA). The ICWPA is an essential channel for ensuring evidence of wrongdoing rising to the level of an urgent concern is brought to the Committee’s attention in a manner that is lawful and protective of classified information. Without commenting on the specifics of any single instance, the American public can be assured that this Committee’s approach to ICWPA complaints is, and will remain, one defined by vigorous oversight, adherence to the law, and recognition of Congress’ Constitutional obligations.”

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the Senate floor and offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aimed at preventing foreign election interference. The amendment would incorporate into the annual defense bill Sen. Warner’s Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, which would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election.

The FIRE Act was initially set to be included in the NDAA as part of Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), which passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month and was later incorporated into the NDAA. Over the weekend, Senate GOP leadership removed the FIRE Act from the NDAA, which is currently being debated on the Senate floor.   

Sen. Warner, who has attempted to pass the FIRE Act several times over Republican objections in the past year, took to the Senate floor today to decry the backroom deal and offer the FIRE Act as a floor amendment, setting the stage for a possible up-or-down vote in the coming week.  

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Warner said in part, “In a different time, with a different president, this bill would not be controversial. It would simply say to all presidential campaigns going forward: if a foreign power reaches out to your campaign offering assistance or offering dirt on a political opponent, the appropriate response is not to say ‘thank you.’ The appropriate response is to call the FBI. What a sad statement about partisan politics in our country, when we can’t even agree on that.”

He continued, The [Intelligence] Committee voted 14-1 to pass an intel authorization bill that included theFIRE Act. So, you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I learned of a backroom deal to strip the FIRE Act out of the Intelligence Committee’s legislation because of a supposed turf war with another Committee. Mr. President, I am back again today because the security of our elections cannot wait. Let’s not hide behind process and turf wars. The stakes are far too high to continue the partisan blockade of election security legislation that we’ve seen over the last three years.” 

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below:

 

Mr. President, I’m here today because I fear the Senate is about to fail once again…to protect our elections from foreign interference.

For the last three years, I’ve worked as Vice Chairman of the Intel committee to investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy in 2016. We are the only bipartisan investigation of Russian election interference to make it to the finish line. 

Any member of the public can read our declassified conclusions. And any member of this body can read additional classified materials. 

Our report offers a stark warning of Russia’s intent to interfere in future U.S. elections… and a clear roadmap for how to defend our democracy from Russia or other adversaries copying their playbook. 

Unfortunately, the White House and the leadership of the United States Senate seem to be the only ones not taking this threat seriously. Since 2016, this body has failed to vote on a single piece of standalone election security legislation. 

So, four times in the last year, I have come to the floor in an attempt to pass my bipartisan election security legislation, known as the FIRE Act, by unanimous consent. 

And each time, those efforts were blocked by my Republican colleagues— earning applause from the President on Twitter. 

In a different time, with a different President, this bill would not be controversial.

It would simply say to all Presidential campaigns going forward: if a foreign power reaches out to your campaign offering assistance…or offering dirt on a political opponent the appropriate response is not to say ‘thank you.’ The appropriate response is to call the FBI

What a sad statement about partisan politics in our country when we can’t even agree on that.

Mr. President, I introduced this bipartisan legislation months before the facts came to light… about the President pressuring Ukraine into announcing politically motivated investigations into the Bidens. 

I’m not here to rehash the impeachment trial, but I do want to note one thing.

A number of my Republican colleagues justified their votes by saying that, while not impeachable, it was wrong for the President to solicit foreign interference in our elections.

I take my colleagues across the aisle at their word that they believe foreign interference has no place in our elections.

But at some point, you have to put your money where your mouth is. 

We know the President tried to trade election favors with Ukraine. According to the new book from John Bolton, the President tried to trade political favors with Xi Jinping during trade negotiations. Maybe that happened, maybe it didn’t. 

But I’d be much more inclined to give the President the benefit of the doubt, if he hadn’t asked China to investigate the Bidens on national television; if he hadn’t asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign; or if he’d shown even a shred of interest in defending our democracy from foreign interference over the last four years.

Mr. President, we are under attack from adversaries who see this new era of cyberwarfare and disinformation as a golden opportunity to undermine American democracy. 

We cannot afford to have a system that allows Presidential candidates to welcome this interference with open arms. If we can’t trust the President of the United States and his campaign to do the right thing and report foreign interference, then we need to require it by law.

I’ve spent over a year inviting my colleagues across the aisle to work with us on this already bipartisan legislation. I’ve answered every objection and worked through the right channels to get this legislation to the floor as part of the NDAA.

We went back to the Intelligence Committee—the only committee engaged in serious efforts to prevent foreign election interference. We made sure that this year’s intel authorization bill included several provisions to strengthen our defenses ahead of the November elections.

The Committee voted 14-1 to pass an intel authorization bill that included the FIRE Act. 

So, you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I learned of a backroom deal to strip the FIRE Act out of the Intelligence Committee’s legislation… because of a supposed turf war with another Committee.  

So, Mr. President, I am back again today because the security of our elections cannot wait. Let’s not hide behind process and turf wars. The stakes are far too high to continue the partisan blockade of election security legislation that we’ve seen over the last three years.

If my Republican colleagues want to strip this legislation out of the NDAA behind closed doors, then I’m going to offer it as an amendment… force an up-or-down vote and put every member of this body on the record. 

More than ever, it is time to put country over party… and defend our democracy from those who would do it harm. I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment and send a clear message: foreign interference has no place in our elections.  

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WASHINGTON - Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), released a new letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe demanding they promptly inform the public of any information supporting the President’s recent, inflammatory claims regarding nationwide protests of the police killing of George Floyd. 

Sens. Warner, Schumer, and Feinstein stress that over the past week, President Trump has asserted—without providing factual support or evidence—that “our nation has been gripped” by, among others, “professional anarchists” and “Antifa.” President Trump further attributed instances of violence and property damage to “acts of domestic terror.”  Versions of these claims have been echoed by other members of the Trump administration, and appear intended to frame the legitimate peaceful protests taking place around the country as terrorist threats in order to justify unnecessary federal, even military, intervention and the excessive use of force.

The Senators urge Director Wray and Director Ratcliffe to immediately release to the public any information they may have supporting the President’s statements and respond to questions from the press.

The letter can be found here and below:

Dear Director Wray and Director Ratcliffe,

We write to request that you promptly inform the public of any information that supports recent claims made by the President related to protests of the police killing of George Floyd.  

On June 1, 2020, President Trump asserted that “our nation has been gripped” by, among others, “professional anarchists” and “Antifa.” He further attributed instances of violence and property damage to “acts of domestic terror.”  These statements are similar to those made by other members of the Administration.

These claims are highly inflammatory.  They also appear intended to frame the legitimate peaceful protests taking place around the country as terrorist threats in order to justify unnecessary federal, even military, intervention and the excessive use of force. Worse still, the President and others have made these assertions without any factual support or evidence. 

These vague and unsubstantiated claims do not justify the extraordinary measures taken in response to these protests.  In recent days, the Administration has deployed numerous federal agencies to the streets of our cities, considered the use of active duty troops against Americans, attacked peaceful protesters, and instigated tensions with state and municipal authorities.  These actions are not sustainable in a democracy. 

We therefore urge that you immediately release to the public any information you may have supporting the President’s statements and respond to questions from the press. 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. 

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was joined by Senate Intelligence Committee members Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee, in urging the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to ensure than any potential plan to withdraw military personnel from Afghanistan is orderly, conditions-based, and planned in conjunction with military and diplomatic counterparts. The letter comes shortly after reports revealed that President Trump is considering a withdrawal of U.S. forces November of 2020 – without regard for the conditions on the ground and much earlier than the timeline established in the Taliban peace agreement that was signed earlier this year.

“While we support the goal of bringing the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, we are concerned that a repeat of our hastily-announced withdrawal from Syria could needlessly put more American lives at risk, increase the threat to allies and partners participating in the Resolute Support Mission, and squander important intelligence relationships and counterterrorism operations,” wrote the Senators in the letter to DNI John Ratcliffe. “A rushed and premature withdrawal would also risk losing the gains we have achieved in Afghanistan, not only in counterterrorism but also in building Afghan governance and military forces.”

“We urge you to ensure the Administration has access to the best intelligence available regarding stability and governance in Afghanistan, the threat posed by groups like the Haqqani Taliban Network, al-Qa‘ida, and ISIS, and the risk posed by a precipitous U.S. withdrawal,” they continued.

In their letter, the Senators emphasized the need to give American intelligence professionals the time and space needed to plan for an organized drawdown, and prevent a rash withdrawal similar to the situation in October 2019, where President Trump decided to hastily withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, surprising U.S. and allied personnel in the region and disrupting operations to defeat ISIS.

Additionally, the Senators requested that DNI Ratcliffe provide an update on the Intelligence Community’s force posture plans for Afghanistan – including a detailed description of future basing and personnel plans, security procedures, options for continued partner engagement, and intelligence collection contingencies – if the decision is made to withdraw the U.S. military by November.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Director Ratcliffe:

As you begin your tenure as Director of National Intelligence, we request that you actively represent the interests of the Intelligence Community as the Administration plans a potential withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement stipulating that our government would remove all military personnel from the country in 12 to 14 months, based on conditions on the ground.  However, recent media reporting indicates that President Trump is seeking to expedite this process, and has requested plans to execute a complete U.S. military withdrawal by November.

During your confirmation hearing last month, you testified that you disagreed with the President’s October 2019 decision to precipitously withdraw U.S. forces from Syria – a move that surprised U.S. and allied personnel in the region, and disrupted operations to defeat ISIS.

While we support the goal of bringing the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, we are concerned that a repeat of our hastily-announced withdrawal from Syria could needlessly put more American lives at risk, increase the threat to allies and partners participating in the Resolute Support Mission, and squander important intelligence relationships and counterterrorism operations.  A rushed and premature withdrawal would also risk losing the gains we have achieved in Afghanistan, not only in counterterrorism but also in building Afghan governance and military forces.  

Our nation’s intelligence professionals have spent nearly two decades establishing security arrangements with our Afghan partners.  Now, it is incumbent upon our government to give them the time and space to prepare for an orderly, conditions-based drawdown, in conjunction with military and diplomatic counterparts.

We urge you to ensure the Administration has access to the best intelligence available regarding stability and governance in Afghanistan, the threat posed by groups like the Haqqani Taliban Network, al-Qa‘ida, and ISIS, and the risk posed by a precipitous U.S. withdrawal.

Accordingly, we request that, at the earliest date possible, you update us on the Intelligence Community’s force posture planning for Afghanistan if the decision is made to withdraw the U.S. military by November.  Please include a detailed description of future basing and personnel plans, security procedures, options for continued partner engagement, and intelligence collection contingencies.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON - The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (IAA) today on a bipartisan 14 - 1 vote. The bill authorizes funding, provides legal authorities, and enhances Congressional oversight for the U.S. Intelligence Community.

“The IAA for Fiscal Year 2021 represents the Senate Intelligence Committee’s strong, bipartisan effort to give our Intelligence Community the resources, authorities, and personnel to protect America’s national security while increasing government efficiency,” Acting Chairman Rubio said. “As a nation, we face ever-expanding threats from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Our legislation is vital to the Intelligence Community, and it provides the men and women who serve our nation the tools they need to keep our country safe. At the same time, our bill represents comprehensive Congressional oversight, ensuring that these tools are executed responsibly and cost-effectively.”

“This bipartisan intelligence authorization bill ensures that the women and men of our intelligence agencies have the resources they need to do their jobs,” said Vice Chairman Warner. “This bill takes key steps to improve our national security, including investments in 5G technology, reforms to our security clearance process, and important protections for whistleblowers to report wrongdoing within the IC.”

Background:

The IAA for Fiscal Year 2021 ensures that the Intelligence Community can continue its critical work for our country while Congress continues its oversight, including in the following key areas:

  • Confronting our adversaries’ attempts to compromise telecommunications and cybersecurity technology;
  • Development and deployment of secure 5G networks based in open-standards to compete with our adversaries;
  • Identifying corruption, influence operations, and information suppression by the Chinese government, in particular in this critical time for the people of Hong Kong;
  • Uncovering Russian and Eastern European oligarchs’ corruption and illegal activities;
  • Protecting against foreign influence threats and election interference on social media platforms;
  • Creating Intelligence Community-wide policies to facilitate sharing cleared contractor information with private companies to enhance the effectiveness of insider threat programs;
  • Requiring the publication of guidelines for granting, denying, or revoking a security clearance and preventing the revocation or denial of a clearance for reasons of discrimination, political beliefs, or retaliation; and
  • Advancing Intelligence Community hiring flexibilities, student loan repayment programs, and child care for IC personnel. 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence marked up the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes measures introduced by the Committee’s Vice Chairman, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), to uphold the integrity of the security clearance process, prevent politically-motivated abuse, and enhance contractor insider threat programs.

“With so many national security challenges facing our nation today, it’s critical that we have a trusted workforce that can safeguard our nation’s secrets,” said Sen. Warner. “With the inclusion of several provisions aimed at ensuring the integrity of our security clearance process in today’s bipartisan bill, Americans can have the confidence that we are vetting, hiring, and retaining national security professionals that will pursue our national security interests.”

Every year, Congress authorizes intelligence funding through the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the world. The bill reflects the intelligence committee’s oversight over the past year and its consideration of the president’s budgetary and legislative requests.

During this year’s markup of the bill, Sens. Warner and Susan Collins (R-ME) successfully secured their provision that builds upon their bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process from being abused for political purposes. The provision also aims to increase transparency and guarantee the same rights for federal contractors and federal workforce in the security clearance process by requiring the publication of adjudicative guidelines that serve as the exclusive basis for granting, denying, and revoking a clearance. In addition, the provision also establishes a government-wide appeals process, chaired by the Director of National Intelligence, for individuals to appeal denials of requests to overturn a decision made at the agency-level to deny or revoke a clearance or crossover request.

The Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) also includes a provision by Sen. Warner that would allow derogatory information-sharing between federal agencies and cleared federal contractors on potential employee red flags in an effort to prevent and mitigate insider threats. The information-sharing system complies with insider threat programs requirements under the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual and rests on contractors giving prior consent to information-sharing.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the below statement after it was announced that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would serve as Acting Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: 

 “Senator Rubio has been a great partner on intelligence and national security issues and I look forward to working with him in his new role as Acting Chairman.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following statement:

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has submitted the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan investigative report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the Office of Director of National Intelligence for classification review. In addition to submitting the full, classified report, and in order to help facilitate the Intelligence Community’s review, we have also submitted what we assess to be a properly redacted, unclassified version of the report, totaling nearly 1,000 pages. It is our hope that ODNI can expeditiously review these documents so that the Committee can consider, vote on, and release the report as soon as possible. 

“We want to thank the talented and tireless staff who have contributed to the Committee’s investigation. The work they’ve done has already greatly added to our understanding of and response to foreign threats to our democratic process.”

Background:

·       At a May 5th open hearing for the nomination of Director of National Intelligence, Chairman Burrannounced that the Committee’s fifth report was complete and would be sent for declassification. During questioning, nominee Rep. John Ratcliffe affirmed his commitment as DNI to an expeditious review of the Committee’s report.

·       To date, the Committee has released four out of a total of five volumes in its comprehensive report on Russia’s 2016 election interference. The previously released volumes examined U.S. election security, Russia’s use of social mediathe Obama Administration’s response to Russian interference, and the January 2017 Intelligence Committee Assessment.

·       The fifth and final volume examines the Committee’s counterintelligence findings.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the floor prior to a cloture vote on the nomination of William Evanina to serve as Director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center.  In his remarks, Warner urged his colleagues to confirm Evanina, who has been serving in that position in an acting capacity for more than two years.

A copy of Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below:

Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of William Evanina to be the first Senate confirmed Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, or NCSC.

Bill is an American patriot and American success story.  Raised in Peckville, Pennsylvania, with very modest means, he was the first in his family to go to college.  Prior to joining the FBI in 1996, his first job was with the General Services Administration in Philadelphia. 

Over his 24-year long career with the FBI, Bill investigated organized crime and violent crimes. He investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the anthrax attacks in Washington, and the Daniel Pearl kidnapping.  Bill also led the counter-espionage group at the Central Intelligence Agency. 

He earned a reputation as the consummate counterintelligence and security professional, fiercely dedicated to the mission, with unquestionable honor.

Then, in June 2014, then-Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper appointed Bill to serve as the director of NCSC.  Many technical and complex activities fall under NCSC, including personnel security policy; information technology protection standards; CI cyber operations; supply chain risk management; threat awareness for U.S. critical infrastructure; and damage assessments from spies and unauthorized disclosures.  And I have partnered with Bill on many topics, to include educating industry about the threats posed by China and reforming an antiquated personnel vetting system.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 recognized the vital work that NCSC does and made the position subject to Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. 

In February 2018, President Trump nominated Bill to be the first Senate-confirmed Director.  The Senate Intelligence Committee considered the nomination in May 2018 and unanimously recommended his confirmation to the full Senate.  We considered his nomination again in February 2019 in the new Congress.  Again, our committee voted unanimously in favor of his nomination.

Unfortunately, over the last two years, despite universal recognition of Bill’s qualifications for the position, his nomination became entangled in unrelated matters.  Despite the delay, Bill stayed the course, committed to the mission above all else. 

All of those unrelated matters may not be addressed to every Senator’s full satisfaction, but at least today we are here to give this nominee what he and the Country deserve: a vote.

Now I share my colleagues’ concerns about protections for whistleblowers. I have seen this White House’s disregard for whistleblower protections. I believe I have Bill Evanina’s commitment that procedures for processing whistleblower complaints will be dealt with appropriately.

I also feel strongly that at this moment when there is not a single Senate-confirmed appointee in the Office of Director of National Intelligence, now more than ever we need a Senate-confirmed career intelligence professional in place—standing guard over an office that too often seems to be directed by political appointees who disregard protections for whistleblowers and our intelligence community.  

I look forward to Mr. Evanina’s confirmation today so that he can continue addressing the many important counterintelligence and security challenges facing our nation.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released a new report, titled “Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment,” the fourth and penultimate volume in the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation.

The latest installment examines the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work behind the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) that determined Russia conducted an unprecedented, multi-faceted campaign to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The installment builds upon the Committee’s unclassified summary findings on the ICA issued in July 2018. 

The ICA is informed by highly sensitive sources. In its review of that information, the Committee sought to protect the methods and means by which the U.S. Intelligence Community secured this information. In order to protect sources and methods, the vast majority of this chapter is redacted.

To date, the Committee has released four out of a total of five volumes in its comprehensive report on Russia’s 2016 election interference. The previously released volumes examined U.S. election securityRussia’s use of social mediaand the Obama Administration’s response to Russian interference. The fifth and final volume will examine the Committee’s counterintelligence findings.

Statement from Chairman Burr: 

“In reviewing the ICA, the Senate Intelligence Committee looked at two key questions: first, did the final product meet the initial task given by the President, and second, was the analysis supported by the intelligence presented? We found the ICA met both criteria. The ICA reflects strong tradecraft, sound analytical reasoning, and proper justification of disagreement in the one analytical line where it occurred.

“The Committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community’s conclusions.

“One of the ICA’s most important conclusions was that Russia’s aggressive interference efforts should be considered ‘the new normal.’ That warning has been borne out by the events of the last three years, as Russia and its imitators increasingly use information warfare to sow societal chaos and discord. With the 2020 presidential election approaching, it’s more important than ever that we remain vigilant against the threat of interference from hostile foreign actors.”

Statement from Vice Chairman Warner:

“The ICA summarizing intelligence concerning the 2016 election represented the kind of unbiased and professional work we expect and require from the Intelligence Community. The ICA correctly found the Russians interfered in our 2016 election to hurt Secretary Clinton and help the candidacy of Donald Trump.  Our review of the highly classified ICA and underlying intelligence found that this and other conclusions were well-supported. There is certainly no reason to doubt that the Russians’ success in 2016 is leading them to try again in 2020, and we must not be caught unprepared.” 

You can read, “Volume IV: Review of Intelligence Community Assessment” here

 

Key Findings: 

  • The Committee finds the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) presents a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case that Russia engaged in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Committee concludes that all analytic lines are supported with all-source intelligence, that the ICA reflects proper analytic tradecraft, and that differing levels of confidence on one analytic judgment are justified and properly represented. Additionally, interviews with those who drafted and prepared the ICA affirmed that analysts were under no political pressure to reach specific conclusions.
  • The Committee finds that the ICA reflects a proper representation of the intelligence collected and that this body of evidence supports the substance and body of the ICA. While the Intelligence Community did not include information provided by Christopher Steele in the body of the ICA or to support any of its analytical judgments, it did include a summary of this material in an annex —largely at the insistence of FBI’s senior leadership.  A broader discussion of the Steele dossier will be included in the final volume of the Committee’s report.
  • The Committee finds that the ICA makes a clear argument that the manner and aggressiveness of Russia’s election interference was unprecedented. However, the ICA does not include substantial representation of Russia’s interference attempts in 2008 and 2012.
  • The Committee finds that the ICA did not include a set of policy recommendations for responding to Russia’s interference attempts. This omission was deliberate, reflecting the well-established norm that the role of the Intelligence Community is to provide insight and warning to policy makers, not to make policy itself.
  • The Committee finds the ICA would have benefited from a more comprehensive look at the role of Russian propaganda generated by state-owned platforms in the multi-pronged interference campaign. Open source reporting on RT’s and Sputnik’s coverage of Wikileaks’ release of information from the Democratic National Committee would have strengthened the ICA’s examination of Russia’s use of propaganda.

Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s previous reports:

Volume I: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure

Volume II: Russia’s Use of Social Media

Volume III: U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities

Volume IV: Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling on President Trump to provide a detailed written explanation for his decision to remove an inspector general. In a letter, the lawmakers underscore the important role inspectors general play in holding agencies accountable and outline the removal procedures, which are designed to prevent political interference. In addition to Sens. Warner and Grassley, the letter was signed by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ron Wyden (D-Ore), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

The 2008 Inspector General Reform Act requires the president to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general. On Friday, President Trump informed Congress of his intention to remove Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, citing a lack of confidence. However, the 2008 law requires additional details.

“Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute.  This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence,” the senators wrote. 

The senators also raised concern about Atkinson being immediately placed on paid administrative leave, effectively removing him from his post prior to the 30-day expiration. 

Full text of the senators’ letter to Trump follows.

 

April 8, 2020

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

 The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20500 

Dear President Trump:

According to reports, on Friday, April 3, you placed Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) Michael Atkinson on administrative leave for thirty days pending his removal from office.[1]  As you know, Congress created inspectors general to combat waste, fraud, and abuse, and to be independent watchdogs holding federal agencies accountable to the taxpayer.  Congress established the IC IG, “to initiate and conduct independent investigations, inspections, audits, and reviews on programs and activities within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence.”[2]  Further, the IC IG and indeed all inspectors general (IG) are designed to fulfill a dual role, reporting to both the President and Congress, to secure efficient, robust, and independent agency oversight.  To ensure inspectors general are fully capable of performing their critical duties, and in recognition of their importance both to efficient administration and to the legislative function, Congress set clear, statutory notice requirements for their potential removal.  

Specifically, current law requires that you inform the Senate and House Intelligence Committees in writing of the reasons for your removal of the IC IG, at least 30 days prior to that removal.[3]  However, in your recent letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, you stated only that, “it is vital that [you] have the fullest confidence” in those serving as IGs and that “this is no longer the case” with regard to Mr. Atkinson.[4]  Further, according to public reports, Mr. Atkinson already was placed on administrative leave, effectively removing him from his position prior to the completion of the statutorily required notice period.[5]

Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute.  This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence.[6]  The Senate Committee Report on the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 provides further clarity regarding the high bar that is expected in cases of removal. In that report, the Committee expressed its intent that, “Inspectors General who fail to perform their duties properly whether through malfeasance or nonfeasance, or whose personal actions bring discredit upon the office, be removed.”  The report also states that, “[t]he requirement to notify the Congress in advance of the reasons for the removal should serve to ensure that Inspectors General are not removed for political reasons.”[7]  

In 2009, senators of both parties raised similar concerns when the Obama administration removed the IG of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Gerald Walpin, by placing him on administrative leave for 30 days without consulting members of Congress.[8]  Like the present notice at issue here, the initial notice of removal for IG Walpin only vaguely noted the President no longer had “the fullest confidence” in him.[9]  At that time, the senators affirmed Congress’s intent that any notice of removal should clearly outline specific reasons supporting that decision.  The senators also reiterated the purpose for the 30 day notice to Congress: to provide an opportunity for an appropriate dialogue with Congress in the event that the planned transfer or removal is viewed as an inappropriate or politically motivated attempt to terminate an effective inspector general.  By placing the IG on 30 days of administrative leave and naming an acting replacement, the administration has already effectively removed that IG and appears to have circumvented Congress’s role in this process.[10] 

As supporters of the Inspector General community, and as advocates for government transparency and accountability, it is our responsibility to confirm that there are clear, substantial reasons for removal.  To that end, we ask that you provide more detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Atkinson no later than April 13, 2020.   Please also provide your views on how the appointment of an acting official prior to the end of the 30 day notice period comports with statutory requirements.  

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after President Trump informed the congressional Intelligence Committees of his intent to fire the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson:

“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job. The work of the intelligence community has never been about loyalty to a single individual; it’s about keeping us all safe from those who wish to do our country harm. We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicize the nation’s intelligence agencies.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) urging them to issue clear guidance that ensures the security clearances of intelligence community personnel and contractors will not be jeopardized due to the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I write to ask you to issue guidance directing agencies to exercise appropriate leniency in considering how the coronavirus (COVID-19) may be negatively impacting adjudications for a security clearance or determination of trust,” wrote Sen. Warner.

A key element of the background investigation that supports a security clearance or a determination of trustworthiness is an individual’s financial stability. In his letter, Sen. Warner raised concerns that COVID-19’s impact could not only lead to financial duress for employees with security clearances, but that this financial duress could lead to delays in renewing security clearances. It could even result in personnel losing their positions in the event that they must heed the advice of health professionals and subsequently lose out on a paycheck in order to self-quarantine. The problem is particularly true for younger workers who lack a long credit history.

“While I understand that departments and agencies may already have certain discretion to consider broader contextual factors that may affect personnel vetting decisions, I ask you to issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness due to circumstances associated with coping with COVID-19. This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation program,” continued Sen. Warner.

Earlier this week, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) issued a statement that supports Sen. Warner’s recommendation for the DNI Acting Director to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus by issuing guidance that acknowledges that “financial difficulties incurred as a result of a work stoppage should not be treated as derogatory factors affecting workers’ security clearances.”

A copy of the letter is found here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

The Honorable Dale Cabaniss

Director, Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street, NW

Washington, D.C.  20415

Ambassador Richard Grenell

Acting Director of National Intelligence

Washington, D.C.  20511

Dear Director Cabaniss and Acting Director Grenell:

I write to ask you to issue guidance directing agencies to ensure that the coronavirus (COVID-19) does not negatively impact adjudications for government or contractor employees’ security clearances or determinations of trust.

COVID-19 may have many effects on our workforce, to include financial difficulty and psychological stress.  Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may require government and contractor personnel to self-quarantine or tend to family members, which in may cause them miss payments on things like rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other forms of debt.  The impact may be particularly acute for hourly workers.  This could impact their credit scores and jeopardize their ability to secure or maintain a clearance or hold a position of trust.  The problem is particularly acute for younger workers who lack a long credit history.  Psychological strain can naturally accompany such circumstances, exacerbating the situation.

While I understand that departments and agencies may already have certain discretion to consider broader contextual factors that may affect personnel vetting decisions, I ask you to issue clear and public guidance to ensure that departments and agencies do not penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness due to circumstances associated with COVID-19.  This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation/vetting program.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the President announced his intent to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI):

“The last time this nomination was unsuccessfully put forward, serious bipartisan questions were raised about Rep. Ratcliffe’s background and qualifications.

“It’s hard for me to see how anything new has happened to change that.”

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