WASHINGTON - The top U.S. intelligence official said that counterintelligence and cyber-security would be given new emphasis under a four-year strategic plan he unveiled Tuesday.
Director of national intelligence Dennis Blair told reporters that although combating extremism, issuing warnings, countering weapons proliferation and supporting military operations overseas remain major priorities, the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community must also work to keep abreast of technical innovations and developments in information technology.
The objectives outlined in the new National Intelligence Strategy, he said, "can only be carried out by an intelligence community that is agile, adaptive and united."
Blair described the strategy, the first to be drawn up under the Obama administration, as "a muscular intelligence response to meet the nation's responsibilities so that we can provide good advice to the policymakers and in the field."
Asked about a U.S. military attack on suspected terrorists in Somalia this week, Blair said, "We are as aggressive in the intelligence world as we were before, and, in fact, in the particular area of working against groups of violent extremists ... we can be more aggressive because are gaining more and more knowledge."
In the past, counterintelligence was directed primarily at exposing foreign spies.
Raising it to a main mission, the new document says that now the targets are not only foreign governments, but also "non-state actors, violent extremist groups, cyber intruders and criminal organizations (who) are increasingly undermining U.S. interests in myriad and growing ways."
As examples, it cites attempts to "manipulate U.S. policy and diplomatic efforts, disrupt or mitigate the effectiveness of our military plans and weapons systems, and erode our economic and technological advantage."
The response envisaged in the new strategy is more collaborative counterintelligence efforts across government agencies to "identify, deceive, exploit, disrupt and protect against these threats."
The task is described as not only penetrating enemy intelligence agencies, but also employing "counterintelligence across the cyber domain to protect critical infrastructure."
White house: renew surveillance
The Obama administration has for the first time set out its views on the controversial Patriot Act, telling lawmakers this week that legal approval of government surveillance methods scheduled to expire in December should be renewed, but leaving room to tweak the law to protect Americans' privacy.
In a letter from Justice Department officials to key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the administration recommended that Congress move swiftly with legislation that would protect the government's ability to collect a variety of business and credit card records and to monitor terrorism suspects with roving wiretaps.
The three provisions set to expire Dec. 31 allow investigators to monitor through roving wiretaps suspects who may be trying to escape detection by switching cellphone numbers, obtain business records of national security targets and track "lone wolves" who may be acting by themselves on behalf of foreign powers or terrorist groups.