A Worldwide Threat Assessment

As we noted in the Wednesday edition, the US intelligence community has released its latest Worldwide Threat Assessment. Much of the media focus this week has fallen on President Trump's criticism of the US intel chiefs, but let's begin with the report itself. Here are its key findings:


  • The Trump administration's trade policies have damaged US interests by pushing allies to build new relationships with other governments.
  • "At present, China and Russia pose the greatest espionage and cyber attack threats."
  • ISIS isn't finished. The group can still call on thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, as well as a dozen networks around the world.
  • "Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security."
  • North Korea "is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability." Following Kim Jong-un's meeting last year with President Trump in Singapore, North Korea has continued nuclear development in some areas and taken actions that are reversible in others. CIA Director Gina Haspel testified before Congress on Tuesday that North Korea "is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States."
  • Iran continues to support terrorist groups in the Middle East and Europe, but it's still complying with the terms of the nuclear deal even after the US withdrew from the agreement and re-imposed sanctions. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress this week that "We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device."

And now to the controversy. President Trump, who has made statements in the past that contradict every one of these findings, was not pleased with the assessment, particularly on the subject of Iran. "The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond," he tweeted on Wednesday.

If you want to know how a particular government weighs threats to national security, don't look to politicians. They have their own motives for stressing this or that threat. Look to intelligence professionals who were there before a particular president or prime minister arrived and will be there after they're gone. US intelligence has been (sometimes dangerously) wrong over the years, but the experience of its people and their extraordinary access to information make it unwise to dismiss their judgment.

And it's alarming to see the president of the United States, whom the US Constitution designates as Commander in Chief of the military, publicly deriding the integrity of the nation's intelligence agencies. This week, your Friday author is in Japan, one of several US allies where officials are watching with serious concern. It's also noteworthy that a clear majority of Republican senators voted this week to support a measure declaring that the Islamic State and al-Qaeda remain serious threats in Syria and Afghanistan, a rare rebuke for the president by lawmakers from his own party.

Democrats have the power to impeach Donald Trump.

After all, impeachment simply requires a majority vote of the House of Representatives, and Democrats hold 235 seats to just 199 for Republicans.

Of course, impeaching the president is only the first step in removing him from office. It's merely an indictment, which then forces a trial in the Senate. Only a two-thirds supermajority vote (67 of 100 senators) can oust the president from the White House. Just two US presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998) have been impeached. Neither was convicted by the Senate.

Many Democrats, including two of the party's presidential candidates, argue the Mueller Report and other sources of information offer ample evidence that President Trump has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," the standard for removal from office under Article Two of the US Constitution. But the impeachment question has provoked intense debate within the Democratic Party.

Here are the strongest arguments on both sides of the Democratic Party's debate.

More Show less

Should Sri Lanka have blocked social media following the terror attacks?

That's a hard one. Misinformation spreads on social media and there's an instinct to say, "Wait, stop it!" But a lot of useful information also spreads and people get in touch with each other. So I would say no they should not have blocked it.

Are Tesla cars at risk of exploding?

There was one video from China of a parked Tesla exploding. I don't think you really have to worry about it though. I am curious to know what that video was really about.

Why do tech companies hate the census citizenship question?

Because if you ask people whether they're citizens. A lot of people will answer and you'll get bad data and the card companies need to know where they set up their operations. Good data matter to Silicon Valley.

What happened during the Space X Crew Dragon accident?

We don't know this one for sure either but one of the engines in a SpaceX test exploded. No one was hurt. Let's hope it was something to do with the way it was set up - not something deep and systematic.


And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft Today in Technology.

What's troubling you today? A revisionary new talk show hosted by Vladimir Putin offers real solutions to your everyday problems.

Crises create opportunities. That's the story of European politics over the past decade, and Spain offers an especially interesting case in point.

On Sunday, Spanish voters will go to the polls in the country's third national election in less than four years. Gone are the days when just two parties (center-right and center-left) dominated Spain's national political landscape. As in other EU countries, the economic spiral and resulting demand for austerity triggered by Europe's sovereign debt crisis, and then a tidal wave of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, have boosted new parties and players. Catalan separatists have added to Spain's political turmoil.

More Show less