Along with COVID killing people all across the planet (according to John Hopikins University, as of this afternoon, 563,375 Americans have died, 2,951,968 worldwide), the pandemic will cause problems well into the future, which will have treacherous effects on humankind’s ability to function in a ‘normal’ way.
A sobering picture as presented by the Annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, released today by the US Intelligence Community, which poses a view of a world made shittier by the ramaging coronavirus and as bad actors take advantage of the chaos created by the pandemic. Life doesn’t seem too happy even with the vaccines.
Usually a regular event/report, this assessment is the first in two years, because, you know — T-Rump (ABC News):
Once an annual event, the Worldwide Threat Assessment hearings took a hiatus in 2020 after intelligence community leaders reportedly balked at depicting a national security landscape in conflict with the sentiments conveyed by then-President Donald Trump.
Their 2019 testimony, which contradicted Trump’s rosy vision of relations with Iran, attracted scrutiny on the then-president’s now-dormant Twitter page.
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted.
“Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
The report also comes on the heels of the announcement made today by Joe Biden’s White House that all US troops will be out of Afghanistan by this Sept 11, the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, which sucked us into the country to begin with and kept us there all this time.
Also tomorrow and Thursday will be Congressional testimony by Avril B. Haines, the director of national intelligence, whose office released the report; along with William J. Burns, the CIA director; and other top intelligence officials — the assessment most-likely the hot topic:
The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic is poised to fracture societies worldwide, increase instability across the globe and reshape political and economic realities for years to come, the US intelligence community warns in a report https://t.co/1VeTLD3tf6
— CNN (@CNN) April 13, 2021
This the major nut from the report on the COVID impact (pdf):
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to strain governments and societies, fueling
humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition as countries, such as China
and Russia, seek advantage through such avenues as “vaccine diplomacy.”
No country has been completely spared, and even when a vaccine is widely distributed globally, the economic and political aftershocks will be felt for years.
Countries with high debts or that depend on oil exports, tourism, or remittances face particularly challenging recoveries, while others will turn inward or be distracted by other challenges.
Along with the lingering fallout from COVID, the threat report also sighted in on foreign hazards facing the US in the near future, with the biggest as China — via The New York Times, also this morning:
The report puts China’s push for “global power” first on the list of threats, followed by Russia, Iran and North Korea.
There are typically few broad revelations in the annual reports, which are a collection of declassified assessments, although the intelligence agencies’ ranking of threats and how they change over time can be telling.
“Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic,” the report said.
“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily and technologically — and is pushing to change global norms.”
China uses its electronic surveillance and hacking capabilities to not only repress dissent inside its country but also conduct intrusions that affect people beyond its borders, the report said.
Also, China represents a growing threat of cyberattacks against the United States, and the intelligence agencies assess that Beijing “at a minimum, can cause localized, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure within the United States.”
And the intel analysis offered a ‘grim assessment‘ in the wake of Biden’s announcement today on an Afghan withdrawal: ‘The intelligence agencies believe a prospect for a peace deal remains low and the Taliban is likely to make battlefield gains, the report said.‘
Plus, as an added bonus of ugly, the assessment outlined US internal threats, not just foreign powers (CNN):
Domestic extremists are motivated by a range of ideologies which “reflects an increasingly complex threat landscape, including racially or ethnically motivated threats and antigovernment or antiauthority threats,” the report says.
“Of these, violent extremists who espouse an often overlapping mix of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and exclusionary cultural-nationalist beliefs have the most persistent transnational connections via often loose online communities to like-minded individuals and groups in the West.
The threat from this diffuse movement has ebbed and flowed for decades but has increased since 2015,” it adds.
White supremacists have been responsible “for at least 26 lethal attacks that killed more than 141 people and for dozens of disrupted plots in the West since 2015,” the report says.
Last month, CNN reported that the summary of a new joint US intelligence assessment said “narratives of fraud in the recent general election” and “the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol” will “almost certainly” spur domestic extremists to try to engage in additional acts of violence this year
That summary was released on the same day that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers domestic violent extremism is the “greatest threat” to the US — a clear reminder that federal officials remain very concerned about the potential for more violence in the coming months.
Again, thank-you T-Rump — will that monster’s time ever end?
Just don’t let it bring you down:
“It’s only castles burning…”
(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Agonizing Horse,’ found here),