WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence answered questions on the intelligence community’s assessment of worldwide threats facing the nation at Tuesday’s open hearing.
Intel Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) headed the hearing, which highlighted concerns and challenges the committee faces, including radical Islamic terrorists, narcotics and space.
Director of the National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency L. Gen. Vincent Stewart, FBI Director James Comey and Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Michael Rogers took questions from a group of senators.
The questions ranged from ranking of security threats to discussing a dispute between the CIA and the Senate about accessing and removing documents.
An exchange between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Brennan began as Wyden demanded a response to possible CIA wrongdoing.
“Do not say we were spying on Senate computers or your files,” Brennan responded to Wyden. “We did not do that.”
The committee also addressed topics about the relationship of encryption and public safety.
Rogers told senators, “Encryption is the foundation of our future.”
Clapper also discussed the role technology will have on the success of the nation and on the committee for addressing the cyber and technology global threats.
“Technological innovations will have more of an impact on the way of life in the next couple of years,” he said.
Comey addressed his concerns of the security of devices and compliance with companies to gain access to information if needed. Comey said several murder cases involved a locked cell phone as a piece of evidence, which police can’t use.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) questioned the committee’s plans for decreasing the amount of gun purchases made by a person on the FBI terrorist watch list—citing 91 percent of members on the watch list were approved for a firearms purchase.
Comey responded saying they will update the list consistently while also looking out for false positives.
In a recent Public Policy Poll, 81 percent of North Carolinians said they would support a bill barring people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing a firearm.
Comey said he has confidence that with a united effort, the intelligence community can address the threats the nation faces.
“We spend a lot of time saying what we can’t do, “ he said. “Why don’t we figure out what we can do?”
The Intelligence Committee will hold a closed hearing on Thursday to address more security concerns.