"The Chinese government is set on stealing your technology--whatever it is that makes your industry tick--and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market. And they're set on using every tool at their disposal to do it."
--FBI Director Christopher Wray, in a recent speech to business leaders
Note well: The FBI says it opens a new counterintelligence investigation involving mainland China, on average, every 10 hours.
There are bad actors in this world. But the powerfully bad seem to congregate in Asia.
For decades, Americans have remained sheltered from the baying wolves, mostly, thanks to U.S. military and technological superiority. Now, on the heels of reports that depict a somewhat diminished military capacity, comes a Senate report that says we may be losing ground in the spy wars as well.
The Senate Intelligence Committee findings didn't deliver good news. Efforts to counter state-sanctioned hacking, cyberattacks and forms of corporate espionage out of Red China and Redder Russia are hampered by our own bureaucracy, the report finds.
The National Counterintelligence and Security Center, in charge of coordinating U.S. agencies' response to these threats, is beset by miscommunication, has no clear mission, and is understaffed and underfunded, the Senate determined.
The Associated Press says the NCSC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), created in the aftermath of 9/11 when it was discovered U.S. agencies didn't share information about some of the terrorists involved in the attacks.
The U.S. intelligence community consists of 18 member agencies including the FBI and CIA, the AP reports. The ODNI was created to coordinate their efforts. In essence, to make them play nice.
Skepticism of its ability to do so was warranted.
Among the challenges facing the ODNI are an inability to make new hires quickly, lack of authority to implement national strategies, and the inability to fund counterintelligence programs on its own. Also not helping, the report finds, is President Biden's failure to nominate a permanent director.
In a statement tied to the report, Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the United States faces a "dramatically different threat landscape" than it did just two decades ago.
"New threats and new technology mean that we have to make substantial adjustments to our counterintelligence posture if we are going to protect our country's national and economic security," he said.
As if to drive home its point, the report also noted internal disagreement on how to address these issues, the AP says. Some in D.C. believe a separate counterintelligence agency, and not just an office functioning as traffic cop, could lift some of the burden shouldered by the FBI and CIA.
Others say such an agency would add another layer of bureaucracy onto an already bloated system. And current intel outfits might oppose a new outfit just to protect their turf. As Daniel Patrick Monyihan once said, intelligence is not to be confused with intelligence.
Meanwhile, those who wish to see the great American experiment fail bide their time.
How much of that commodity do we have?