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Rubio: “We Need to Preserve and Build Confidence in Our Intelligence Agencies”

Jun 5, 2024 | Press Releases

U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered opening remarks and a line of questioning at a hearing on the nomination for General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

  • “It’s critical that, above everything else, we always preserve and build the confidence that people have in our agencies, that the work they’re doing is about our national security, not a tool for internal politics.” – Senator Rubio

Click here for a video of Rubio’s line of questioning. 

Click here for video of Rubio’s opening remarks and read the transcript below:

RUBIO: The work of intelligence is probably unique in all of our government. It is the one place where the American people basically say and admit our government needs to collect secrets and keep them secret, not so much because they don’t want us to know, but because if they would divulge those secrets or divulge how they acquired them, they would divulge who gave it to them, and they would not be able to collect anything in the future. 

It’s an extraordinary power, given the technical advances today. We don’t just operate in the realm of human intelligence. We operate in the realm of technical intelligence and the analysis of all kinds of things that are out there in the open and in the media. Suffice it to say, the power that we now have deployed in the pursuit of foreign secrets that apply to our national security is an extraordinary power. 

The only way that that bargain with the American people works is if they trust that that power will be used in…a way that the information is as accurate as possible. Sometimes it’s analysis, and analysis can be wrong, but there’s a difference between analysis that’s wrong because the analyst just made a wrong educated guess, and [analysis that’s wrong because information was manipulated. The American people] have to have the trust that it’s not being manipulated, that someone is not going in and saying, “I’m going to manipulate the intelligence that we pay attention to in order to support a policy outcome that a policymaker may want or that may be popular.” 

[The American people also have to trust that information] is not being weaponized, that it’s not being used as a tool to target, for example, domestic political opponents…. The Church Committee gave rise to the existence of this very committee. It unraveled and disclosed and revealed and uncovered all kinds of operations that almost destroyed our intelligence agencies in this country. Part of that was that there were administrations in both political parties that had used our intelligence agencies to conduct either domestic political activities or to interfere in certain domestic political activities. 

Suffice it to say that this has been going on for a while, but it was the reason why this committee was created, hence the role of general counsel [and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence], which acts as the conductor of the orchestra, and it’s a tough orchestra. Some of the instruments in that orchestra are bigger and more powerful than others, such as, for example, the CIA. But it’s an incredibly important role…. 

One of the things that disturbs me most is when I go out and people say, and it bothers me because of what it implies about the [issue of] trust that I raised, “The CIA or the intelligence agencies interfered in this or did that.” I remind people that often, most of the time, what they’re referring to are former officials who have left the service of our country and then used that title as credibility when they make statements that may have political purposes and, in some cases, do have political purposes behind them. 

There’s not much you can do about it, but it has eroded trust in our intelligence agencies. I fear what that means, because we do face a lot of threats in this country, to our country, to our national security. I hope the day never comes when a real stark warning is made about some threat to our country, and people just dismiss it because they don’t believe who it is that’s telling it to them. 

That is why it’s so critical that, above everything else, we always preserve and build the confidence that people have in our agencies, that the work they’re doing is about our national security, not a tool for internal politics, not as a way to spy on and abuse Americans. It’s one of the resistances we have to the reauthorization of 702. People are convinced it’s being used to target Americans, because they think the information that’s being provided to policymakers or to the public is selectively chosen to further one narrative or one political viewpoint versus another. 

As a general counsel, you will be in a role to see how agencies conduct their activities and what they’re permitted to do under the law. Keep in mind not just what the law allows, but what the spirit of that law should be about, and [I hope] that you will…always be cooperative with and responsive to this committee, because we are, and our House counterparts are, the only eyes and ears the American public has between them and the secrets our government holds. For us to be able to do our job effectively and with confidence, we need to have that level of cooperation.