McRaven, Clapper discuss national security

Nidia Cavazos

In the opening session of a three-day intelligence conference hosted by the University, William McRaven, retired Naval admiral and future UT System Chancellor, and James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, offered their views Thursday on the state of national security after the 9/11 attacks.

The conference, titled “Intelligence Reform and Counterterrorism after a Decade: Are We Smarter and Safer?” is being hosted by the Clements Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law to look back at the 10 years since the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 was passed and restructured U.S. intelligence.

In the session, held at the Blanton Museum of Art auditorium, McRaven, who is known for organizing the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, said the American military is strong because many men and women enlisted after the 9/11 attacks.

“We have the capacity and tremendous amount of men and women who volunteer,” McRaven said. “They can plan to the known and to the unknown.”

McRaven also said that relationships within the intelligence community, including the CIA, FBI and the NSA, were very important to fix after the attacks. He said he believes the improvement has made the U.S. more competent in battling terrorism.

“By working with other intelligence community members to understand the [terrorist networks], we could take action and slow down their ability to work even at a district level,” McRaven said.

Clapper also said that the nation is currently in a new and challenging position because of the mass number of threats present. According to Clapper, who was appointed to his position in 2010, the current standing of the nation is more advanced in terms of technology than it has been in years, but it does not mean that the country is safer from possible threats.

“Threat is spreading, as seen with the al-Qaida franchises, and this sounds gloomy,” Clapper said. “We’re far smarter, but I cannot say we’re safer.”

The U.S. currently faces many problems, such as budget cuts and the consequences of leaked information, and Clapper said these problems make up a “storm threat” that is degrading the nation’s capability to counteract any threat.

As a response, according to Clapper, the nation is moving to a more transparent system that can help citizens understand what is going on and reduce the effects of leaked information.

Samantha Minkowitz, government junior who attended the discussion, said she found Clapper’s assessment of the nation’s security surprising. 

“What shocked me the most was that we’re in a time when we’re experiencing the most array of threats that the nation has experienced in over 50 years,” Minkowitz said. “I really thought we were a lot safer, so it really opened my eyes to be more aware of the country that I live in.”