Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered opening remarks at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on vetting modernization.
Click here for video and read a transcript below.
Intelligence, by necessity, is something we keep out of the public eye, because we can't conduct it in the sunshine. But there has to be oversight. And so that's why these committees were created. And I'm actually very proud to be a member of this committee. Most of our work is not on camera.
Maybe that's why most of our work is productive, nonpartisan, and serious. There's no reason to show off in front of the cameras, because no one's in there to watch that. But I think, ultimately, [we do well] because all the members on this committee that are picked individually by the respective leaders of the two parties are people that take this task very seriously. And I'm very proud of the work that we do.
But it only works if we have access and can conduct oversight. We have to know what the intelligence agency is [doing], not because we're nosy, we can't tell anybody anyways, [but] because we need to know. Because when things go wrong down the road, people are going to want to know, why wasn't there oversight being conducted?
We know that classified information was removed by at least three individuals that previously served in the government, two of them as president. One is [the current] president. And we need to understand what that material was, so that we can determine whether the intelligence community has established both the appropriate mitigation and the appropriate risk calculus as to what could have been revealed. We do not have that.
The excuse is an unacceptable one, that there's a special prosecutor process going on. We're not interested in the criminal justice aspect of it. I would almost assure you we have access already to almost all most of the material. We just don't know which ones they are. So how can we make a judgment as to whether the proper risk calculus is in place and whether the proper mitigation of any is being implemented, if we don't know what we're talking about?
I know it's not anything you handle personally, directly, but I hope you'll go back and say that the Intelligence Committee raised it again today. As I said, I think everyone is very serious about it, and I hope we can find resolution on it.
The other [point I want to make], and I'll be even briefer on this one, but I think it's also important to us is we had a Chinese balloon go across the middle of the United States. It wasn't a weather balloon. Everybody acknowledges it was a collection platform. We've had very little information or data provided to us. And in particular, no one's even truly informed us of the role that the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, AARO, played in that regard.
Maybe this is because it's a DoD-Intelligence Committee overlap, but whatever it is, these are things that we need answers to. Just to think about how important that was and how little information has been provided to the committees, particularly to this one, is something that I hope you'll also take back as concern number two in this regard.
Now, on the topic that we're on today, I think it's a pretty straightforward one, and that is we need to be able to hire good people to come in and work for the government. We need to know who they are. I think this is a challenge because the backlog builds up. There's been improvement after the 2016 DoD system was implemented, but obviously that doesn't apply to all of the IC. I think there's some issues with one agency not reciprocating the other. Then there's, I'm not saying it's unnecessary, but this Byzantine system…all of the different layers of compartments and so forth.
But the main point is I think it's getting increasingly difficult. I'm just telling you, from people that I know, I've actively tried to encourage people to pursue serving their country at one of the agencies. And it's just really hard, because when you go see them, and you tell them, “It'll take two or three years to clear you,” who can sit around for two or three years to wait to be hired? Especially when we're competing with the private sector for some of this talent.
There are a lot of people willing to do it. So I think that's what I'm most interested in learning. How do we balance the need to bring in people you can trust and understand who they are with the desire to do it quickly enough so that this is a viable option for people that want to come work here. I think there are ways to do it. I also think it's going to get more challenging.
In some ways, it's probably easier to hire a 23-year-old, because they haven't traveled the whole planet. I would imagine that for at least half that time of their lives, they weren't doing anything nefarious…. But when you're 23, there's limited windows, as opposed to somebody who is 55 and has worked in the private sector. You need to know more about their background and the like. But I think the flip side of it is it's going to be impossible in the years to come to hire someone who hasn't had a substantial social media profile platform and what that has exposed them to, whether it’s data or places they've traveled or people they've interacted with or relationships they have.
I also think the nature of espionage has changed. It's not some James Bond figure rappelling off the side of a building. It might be someone who doesn't even know they're operating as a spy, but they're operating as an influence agent, and those sorts of relationships.
So all of that is to say this is a tricky problem. But one, we have to figure out, and we want to know what progress we're making on it, because we need to be able to attract talented people to serve our country in these roles.