WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2011 — The intelligence community has to do a better job collecting information that will predict uprisings like those going on in Egypt, while also treating cybersecurity as the next battlefield, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta told a congressional committee yesterday.
The CIA filed nearly 400 reports last year describing the potential for disruption in the Middle East, but needs better collection “when it comes to triggers that ignite these conditions and cause the events that we’ve seen take place,” Panetta told the House Intelligence Committee.
Regressive political regimes, economic instability or stagnation, and lack of freedoms are common problems in the Middle East, and civil uprising becomes more likely as citizens experience unmet expectations, young people can’t get jobs, and the Internet allows for demonstrations to be organized quickly, Panetta said. “That’s something we need to pay a lot more attention to in today’s world,” he added.
Panetta said he has established a 35-member task force to focus specifically on the types of trigger points that led to unrest in Egypt and could happen in similar situations to be ready for problems when they occur.
“People can tell you where the tremors are, they can tell you where the fault lines are, they can tell you what the past is, they can even tell you that the threat of something happening is close,” he said. “But they can’t tell you exactly when an earthquake is going to take place. Those are the kinds of things that are obviously very tough for intelligence to predict. But I think our job is to collect as much as we can to know those triggers.”
about the CIA director called threats to the nation’s computer systems “a real national security threat that we have to pay attention to.”
“I’ve often said that I think the potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber attack,” he said. “If you have a cyber attack that brings down our power grid system, brings down our financial system, brings down our government systems, you could paralyze this country. And I think that’s a real potential.”
U.S. agencies still need to develop not only defenses to such an attack, but also a warning system for trouble, Panetta said, noting that countries such as Russia, China and Iran are developing capacity in those areas.
“We’re now the subject of literally hundreds of thousands of attacks that come in [on U.S. computer systems] in an effort to try to get information,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)