Russia Determined to Keep Hacking Elections, U.S. Intelligence Director Says

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Coats focused on a summation of nations and entities who are presenting threats to the US and how they are doing it.

They included Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA director Mike Pompeo and acting Federal Bureau of Investigation director Andrew McCabe, who was newly installed after Trump fired the agency's chief James Comey this week.

On North Korea, the statement says Kim Jong Un's regime is "poised to conduct its first" flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile this year, "which would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the USA mainland". Coats declined to provide such details in an open hearing. Sen.

The report states that US intelligence believes "Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them".

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the Defense Intelligence Agency's director, said North Korea was at the same time developing a nuclear device and processing fissile material, aiming to miniaturize a device for a warhead to mount on such missiles. "The Taliban are likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas", said the United States spy chief, adding that efforts to bolster local military have been less fruitful than hoped.

"It's clear that we have assessed this as a very significant, potentially existential threat to the United States that has to be addressed".

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"Afghanistan will struggle to curb its dependence on external support until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban", Coats told lawmakers in presenting an annual assessment of threats to United States national security.

Coats' report also says that Russian actors have conducted attacks on critical infrastructure networks, even going so far as to pretend to be third parties hiding behind false online personas.

North Korea's missile tests in 2016, including a space launch that put a satellite into orbit, have shortened its pathway toward a reliable intercontinental missile that could strike the US, he said, and the North has expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces. Coats said Afghan troops suffer from "combat casualties, desertions, poor logistical support and weak leadership". He recommended that US forces train with Afghan forces down the chain of command to the corps level, and that the Afghan security forces learn to make better use of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) and air support.

In findings that echoed previous assessments, Coats said North Korea's nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs pose an "increasingly grave national security threat to the United States and its interests", while Iran is stepping up its role as a regional actor, backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and Houthi rebels in Yemen.

"Kabul's political dysfunction and ineffectiveness will nearly certainly be the greatest vulnerability to stability in 2017", he wrote. "We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons".

The post North Korea poses "existential" threat, US intel chief warns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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