CIA has a very important role in monitoring China’s rise as a global power: Gina Haspel

The Central Intelligence Agency Acting Director is concerned about the potential contacts between Pakistan nuclear scientists and extremists.

May 10, 2018 09:35 am | Updated 01:42 pm IST - Washington

 CIA nominee Gina Haspel is sworn in during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 9, 2018.

CIA nominee Gina Haspel is sworn in during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 9, 2018.

Identifying China as a major national security challenge for the U.S., a top CIA official told lawmakers that the spy agency has an important role in monitoring China’s rise as a global power.

“CIA has a very important role in monitoring China’s rise as a global power,” Gina Haspel, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA Director, told members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on May 9.

She is currently the Acting Director of the CIA. If confirmed, Ms. Haspel would be the first female head of the spy agency.

“China efforts to diminish U.S. influence, not only in the Pacific, but all around the world, China’s unfair trade practices, and China’s overt and illicit efforts to steal U.S. technology and know-how and intellectual property,” she said.

The CIA is raising its investment on each of these hard targets.

“We have incredible expertise on China at the agency. It is a very strong team. I’m very proud of our analysts. It is a subject that a week doesn’t go by that, either, the President asks for an expert briefing or Secretary Mattis asks for someone to brief him on China issues,” Ms. Haspel said responding to a question from Senator Marco Rubio.

For decades, American foreign policy towards China has been rooted in the belief that as they prospered, economically, they would embrace democracy, they would embrace the global rule of law, Mr. Rubio said in his remarks.

“That consensus, by all accounts has been catastrophically wrong,” he said.

“Today China is undertaking a comprehensive effort to supplant the United States and to undermine us. And they’ve benefited from the greatest transfer of wealth in history, through the theft and the forced transfer of intellectual property. They use unfair trade and other practices to undermine our industrial and technical base,” Mr. Rubio said.

“They gather and exploit data at an unrivaled scale. They’re building the most capable and well-funded military in world, second to ours,” he said, and asked if the CIA was equipped to meet this multi-faceted challenge.

Ms. Haspel responded saying China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have very aggressive, offensive cyber programmes, both to steal secrets and in some cases, earn illicit money.

“The CIA can, probably, make the biggest contribution, in collection, about these countries’ activities and various groups activities so that we can inform the U.S. government agencies that have to mount our defence,” she said.

“Everyone in the U.S. government has been struggling, as all western governments are, on what is the most effective way to organise yourself for cyber defence. We’re still working on that, but CIA has a big role,” Ms. Haspel added.

Pakistan nuclear scientists and extremists

Potential contacts between Pakistani nuclear scientists and extremist groups is a matter of deep concern for the U.S. and the CIA is closely monitoring them, Ms. Haspel said.

“There was very deep concern about potential contacts, and we continue to monitor this very closely, between extremists and Pakistani nuclear scientists,” Ms. Haspel said while responding to a question from Senator John Cornyn.

Mr. Cornyn cited a book that reminded him that post-9/11, the then President George W. Bush was concerned about reports that al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and extremists were meeting with the Pakistani officials connected with their nuclear programme to gain access to a nuclear device that they might then use for a follow-on attack against the cities like Washington DC.

“Without divulging classified information, can you confirm that there were concerns about follow-on attacks using nuclear devices, biological weapons, other weapons of mass destruction that might have killed more innocent Americans as happened on 9/11? Was that the environment in which you and the country were operating in at the time?” Mr. Cornyn asked Ms. Haspel.

There were very grave concerns on that front, Ms. Haspel answered.

“And indeed, al-Qaeda had those kinds of programmes, efforts to acquire crude, dirty bombs, efforts to develop — they had a programme — a biological weapons programme. I remember the operative who was in charge of that,” Ms. Haspel said.

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