July 30, 2014 —
Editor’s note: This is a reprint of
a Defense Media Activity story originally published July 27.
ASPEN, Colo., July 27, 2014 –
Transparency has to be a watchword for the intelligence community if it is to
regain the public’s trust, Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, director of the
Defense Intelligence Agency, said here yesterday.
“What transparency does is,
transparency breeds trust,” Flynn told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum.
And the intelligence community cannot afford to lose the trust of the American
people, he added.
“When it happened in the past, this
community got gutted and we failed the country again,” Flynn said.
The damage done by Edward Snowden
was terrible, the director said. "This country can sustain big body blows,
we will sustain this one, but … there will be risk,” Flynn said.
Since the leaks by Snowden, he said,
the intelligence community has worked to correct itself.
“This is about transparency,
security, civil liberties, our ability to protect this nation and trust. And I
think the most [important] of all those is trust,” Flynn said.
The American public will regain its
trust in the intelligence community if they know the community is abiding by
laws approved by Congress, the executive branch and the judiciary, he said.
There needs to be a national conversation about the role of intelligence, the
Many of the threats and issues the
intelligence community deals with every day are likely to be around for a long
time, the director said. The nation is not safer for having been at war for the
past 13 years, Flynn added.
“We have a whole gang of new actors
out there that are far more extreme than al-Qaida,” he said, and they are
involved in increasingly complex regional conflicts in places like Syria and
And it is a mistake to underestimate
these groups, Flynn noted.
"We look at some of these
people as if they were in shower shoes and bathrobes, but twice they were
defeating the most sophisticated military in the world -- in 2006 in Iraq and
2009 in Afghanistan,” he said. “And they're watching everything that's going on
in Iraq as we transition out of Afghanistan."
These individuals have every
intention to come to the United States and do damage, the general said.
One of the most dangerous threats
that the U.S. faces, Flynn said, is the possibility of a group like the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant getting their hands on chemical weapons in Syria.
“So, we're worried about foreign
fighters coming out of there, doing attacks here in this country or maybe
against our partners, but actually, there's still chemical capabilities in that
part of the world and in the hands of people who I know have the intent to use
them and we need to be concerned about that,” he said.
Nation-states around the world are
being challenged, Flynn said. The world is in a period of prolonged societal
conflict, the general continued, and the United States needs to recognize that
it cannot win alone.
And while the U.S. will always play
an important international role in addressing these failures, he said, it may
not always be a deciding one.