- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

China and Russia are working on a wide range of weapons capable of attacking U.S. satellites and space sensors, the Pentagon's top intelligence official told Congress yesterday.
Vice Adm. Thomas R. Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, also said his agency is unable to certify that China is adhering to pledges made to the United States to curb sales of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
"A number of countries are interested in or experimenting with a variety of technologies that could be used to develop counterspace capabilities," Adm. Wilson said in prepared testimony on national security threats.
"China and Russia have across-the-board programs under way, and other smaller states and nonstate entities are pursuing more limited though potentially effective approaches."
He appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee with CIA Director George J. Tenet as part of the U.S. intelligence community's annual world threat briefing.
The three-star admiral said that by 2015 "future adversaries will be able to employ a wide variety of means to disrupt, degrade or defeat portions of the U.S. space support system."
The U.S. military is heavily reliant on satellites and space-based sensors for communications, intelligence, reconnaissance, and command and control of forces around the world.
Weaker foreign militaries view U.S. space systems as a key vulnerability that would provide a strategic advantage during a conflict.
Mr. Tenet, in his prepared statement for the Senate hearing, also said information warfare and space weapons are a growing threat.
"Our adversaries well understand U.S. strategic dependence on access to space," Mr. Tenet said. "Operations to disrupt, degrade, or defeat U.S. space assets will be attractive options for those seeking to counter U.S. strategic military superiority."
It was the first time U.S. intelligence officials publicly discussed the space warfare threat.
The disclosure followed recent official statements by Russian and Chinese governments criticizing a U.S. Air Force war game involving a simulated future conflict with China. Mock Chinese forces attacked U.S. space systems during the exercise, according to military officials.
China is developing ground-based laser weapons and electronic pulse weapons that can blind or destroy U.S. satellites, U.S. intelligence officials have said.
In wide-ranging testimony, Mr. Tenet, flanked by Adm. Wilson and the State Department intelligence chief, Thomas Fingar, testified that:
Terrorists linked to Saudi fugitive Osama bin Ladin pose "the most immediate and serious threat" of attacks on American interests. "The threat from terrorism is real, immediate and evolving," Mr. Tenet said.
Long-range ballistic missiles are a growing threat beyond the strategic missile arsenals of Russia and China and include North Korea, Iran and possibly Iraq.
The risk of war between South Asia rivals India and Pakistan is "unacceptably high" and could lead to a regional conventional and nuclear conflict. The dispute over the Kashmir region has the potential to lead to "full-scale war."
India and Pakistan may conduct another round of underground nuclear tests, and Pakistan may test-fire one of its medium-range missiles in response to India's recent flight test of an Agni missile.
The Islamist Taleban regime in Afghanistan is involved in drug trafficking and has provided safe harbor to bin Laden.
Mr. Tenet said he has no intention of reinstating security clearances for former CIA Director John Deutch, who was pardoned last month by outgoing President Clinton shortly before he was to have pleaded guilty to charges he mishandled classified information.
Leaks of classified information have been "devastating," and the CIA director hopes Congress will renew efforts to pass new legislation aimed at increasing criminal penalties for disclosing secrets. Similar legislation was vetoed by Mr. Clinton last year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is reverting to a Soviet-style government in several areas that undermine democracy.
On future warfare, Mr. Tenet did not identify China and Russia as among the nations working on space weapons. However, he stated that "foreign countries are interested in or experimenting with a variety of technologies that could be used to develop counterspace capabilities."
Mr. Tenet said no other country in the world is so reliant and dependent on computer information systems. "The great advantage we derive from this also presents us with unique vulnerabilities," he said. "Computer-based information operations could provide our adversaries with an asymmetric response to U.S. military superiority by giving them the potential to degrade or circumvent our advantage in conventional military power."
Under questioning from Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and committee chairman, all three intelligence officials acknowledged that China does not appear to be living up to pledges made to the United States to halt dangerous missile sales and nuclear transfers.
"People make pledges," Mr. Tenet said.
"And some people don't keep them, do they?" Mr. Shelby said in response.
China recently pledged that it would not sell nuclear-capable missiles in exchange for a decision by the U.S. government not to impose economic sanctions for Beijing's missile sales to Iran and Pakistan.
Asked if he could assure the panel that China is no longer engaged in activities it has agreed to halt, Adm. Wilson said, "I could not assure the committee of that."
Mr. Tenet said the Chinese are continuing to have contacts that are "worrisome" as far as weapons sales are concerns. "I'm not giving anybody a clean bill of health," he said.
Russia, China and North Korea are the most active suppliers of missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and Pakistan and Iran and other states are "secondary" weapons suppliers transferring to third parties weapons technology gained from others, Mr. Tenet said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide