Director of National Intelligence James Clapper did a little government shutdown fearmongering this week, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that furloughs could give foreign governments the opportunity to recruit Federal employees as spies.
Clapper told lawmakers that it may be easier for enemies to recruit U.S. spies from a pool of Federal employees sitting at home because of furloughs from the government shutdown.
This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence service to recruit, particularly as our employees already… [subjected] to furloughs driven by sequestration, are gonna have even greater financial challenges,” he told lawmakers.
“I’ve been in the intelligence business for about 50 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Clapper added.
The intelligence officials also said that a lack of income could also make furloughed employees more susceptible to bribes.
According to intelligence officials report that about 70 percent of civilian intelligence employees, including both support staff and intelligence analysts, have been furloughed due to the government shutdown.
Clapper concedes that the intelligence cutbacks make the American public less safe.
“I think this, on top of the sequestration cuts that were already taken… seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation and its citizens,” he told lawmakers.
“The danger here, of course, that this [threat] will accumulate over time [and] the damage will be insidious,” he added.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Clapper if the intelligence community could guarantee the security of the United States in the face of the ongoing shutdown. The intelligence chief said no.
“I don’t feel that I can make such a guarantee to the American people,” Clapper told Grassley.
“It would be much more difficult to make such a guarantee as each day of this shutdown goes by,” he added.
Grassley also asked Clapper if the intelligence community may be overstating the impact of the shutdown, saying that there must not be too much danger if 70 percent of the workforce is “non-essential” under the furlough guidelines.
“You either need better lawyers,” Grassley said, speaking of lawyers who determined which employees were not essential, “or need to make changes in your workforce.”
Clapper responded, saying that the agency was abiding by the definition of “non-essential” in the relevant law affecting the shutdown and was only keeping workers “necessary to protect against imminent threat to life and property.”