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thank you very much, Mr Chairman, German Schiff, ranking member Nunez and members of the committee.
Good morning.
I'd like to begin by thanking the German and the committee for agreeing to postpone this hearing for one week.
This provided sufficient time to allow the executive branch to successfully complete its consultations regarding how to accommodate the committee's request.
Mr.
Chairman, I've told you this on several occasions, and I would like to say this publicly.
I respect you.
I respect this committee and I welcome and take seriously the committee's oversight role during my confirmation process to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
I told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that congressional oversight of the intelligence activities is critical and so essential to successful operations.
With the intelligence community having served as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center for eight months and as the acting director of national intelligence for the past six weeks, I continue to believe strongly that the role of congressional oversight as I pledged to the Senate I pledge to you today that I will continue to work closely with Congress while I'm serving either in this capacity as acting director of national counterterrorism.
But when I return to the National Counterterrorism Center to ensure you are fully and currently informed of intelligence activities to facilitate your ability to perform your oversight of the intelligence community, the American people expect us to keep them safe.
The intelligence community cannot do that without this committee support.
Before I turned to the matter of hand, there are a few things I would like to say.
I am not partisan and I am not political.
I believe in a life of service, and I'm honored to be a public servant.
I served under eight presidents while I was in uniform.
I have taken the oath to the Constitution 11 times the first time when I was went into the United States Navy in 1974 and nine times during my subsequent promotions in the United States Navy.
Most recently, former director Dan Coats administered the oath of office last December when I became the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
I agree with you.
The oath is sacred.
It's a foundation of our constitution.
The oath to me means not only that I swear true faith and allegiance to that sacred document, but More importantly, I view it as a covenant.
I have with my workforce that I lied and every American that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office.
I come from a long line of public servants who stepped forward even in the most difficult times in austere times to support and defend our country.
When I took my uniform off in July of 2010 it was the first time in 70 years that an immediate member of my family was not wearing the cloth of the nation.
As a naval special warfare officer, I had the honor of commanding at every level in the seal community.
It was at times very demanding.
But the rewards of serving in America Special Operations community more than make up for the demands.
After my retirement, I was fortunate to work for a great private sector firm.
I left the business world after three years to lead a nonprofit charity.
Some question why would leave a promising business career to run a charity?
The answer was quite simple.
It was another opportunity to serve.
I let a foundation dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of our fallen and severely wounded special operators.
The foundation I lead enabled hundreds of Children of our fallen to attend college.
It was extremely meaningful and rewarding.
In the winter of 2018 I was asked by former director Dan Coach to return to government service toe lead the National Counterterrorism Center.
This request was totally unexpected and was not a position I saw it.
But then again, it was another opportunity to serve my country In particular.
I knew that many of the young sailor's in junior officers that I had trained 20 years earlier we're now senior combat veterans deploying and still sacrificing, I decided that they could continue to serve.
Returning to government service was the very least I could do.
And now here I am, sitting before you as the acting director of national intelligence.
With last month's departure of Dan Coats and Sue Gordon, two exceptional leaders and friends, I was asked to step into their very big shoes and lead the intelligence community until the president nominates and the Senate confirms the next director of national intelligence.
I accepted this responsibility because I love this country.
I have a deep and profound respect for the men and women of our intelligence community and the mission we execute every day on behalf of the American people.
Throughout my career, I have served and lead through turbulent times.
I have governed every action by the following criteria.
It must be legal.
It must be moral and it must be ethical.
No one could taken individuals ticketea away.
It could only be given away.
If every action meets those criteria, you will always be a person of integrity.
And by nearly four decades of public service, my integrity has never been questioned.
Until now.
I'm here today, toe unequivocally state that is acting D and I.
I will continue the same faithful and non partisan support and a matter that adheres to the Constitution and the laws of this great country.
As long as I served in this position for whatever period of time that maybe I want to make it clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way in the matter that is before us today.
I want to also state my support for a whistleblower and rights and the laws whistle blowing has a long history in our country dating back to the Continental Congress.
This is not surprising because as a nation we desire for good government.
Therefore, we must protect those who demonstrate courage to report alleged wrongdoing, whether on the battlefield or in the workplace.
Indeed, at the start of ethics trading the executive branch each year, we're reminded that public service is a public trust and as public servants, we have a solemn responsibility to do what's right, which includes reporting concerns of waste, fraud and abuse, and bringing such matters to the attention of Congress under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I applaud all employees who come forward.
Under this act, I am committed to ensuring that all whistleblower complaints are handled appropriately and to protecting the rights of whistleblowers.
In this case, the complainant raised the matter with the intelligence community Inspector General.
The inspector general is properly protecting the complainants identity and will not permit the complainant to be subject to any retaliation or adverse consequences for communicating the complaint with the inspector general.
Upholding the integrity of the intelligence community and the workforce is my number one priority.
Throughout my career, I relied on the men and women of the intelligence community to do their jobs so I could do mine, and I could personally attest that their efforts saved lives.
I would now like to turn to the complaint and provide a general background on how we got to where we are today.
On August 26th the inspector general forwarded a plane to May from an employee in the intelligence community.
The expected general stated that the complaint raised an urgent concern.
A legally defined term under Whistleblower Protection Act that has been discussed at length on our lead us to the committee on September 16 and 17.
Before I turn to the discussion about whether the complaint meets the definition of urgent concern.
Our first want to talk about an even more fundamental issue.
Upon reviewing the complaint, we were immediately struck by the fact that many of the allegations of the complaint are based on a conversation between the president and another foreign leader.
Such calls are typically subject to executive privilege.
As a result, we consulted with White House counsel's office and were advised that much of the information the complaint was in fact subject to executive privilege, a privilege that I do not have the authority to waive.
Because of that, we were unable to immediately share the details of the complaint with this committee, but continued to consult with the White House counsel's in an effort to do so.
Yesterday the president released the transcripts of the call in question and therefore we are now able to disclose the details of both complaint and the inspector general's letter transmitting tow us.
As a result, I have provided the House and Senate intelligence committees with the full unredacted complaint as well as the inspector general's letter.
Let me also discussed the issue of urgent concern when transmitting a complaint to May.
The inspector general took the legal position that because the complaint alleges matters of urgent concern and because he found the allegations to be credible, I was required under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act to forward the complaint to our oversight committees within seven days of receiving it.
As we have previously explained, that are letters urgent?
Concern is a statutorily defined term to be an urgent concern.
The allegations must, in addition to being classified, assert a flagrant serious problem abuse for violation of law and relate to the funding administration or operation of an intelligent activity within the responsibility of the director of national intelligence.
However, this complaint conduct this complaint concerns conduct by someone outside the intelligence community unrelated to funding administration or operation of an intelligence activity under my supervision.
Because the allegation on the face did not appear to fall in the statutory framework, my office consulted with the United States Department, Justice Office of Legal Counsel and included We included the inspector general in those consultations.
After reviewing the complaint and the inspector general's transmittal letter, the Office of Legal Counsel determined that the complaint's allegations do not meet the statutory requirement definition concern legal, urgent concern and found that I was not legally required to transmit the material to our oversight committee under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
On a classified version of that Office of Legal Counsel, Memo was publicly released.
As you know, for those of us in the executive branch Office of Legal Counsel, opinions are binding on all of us.
In particular, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion states that the president is not a member of the intelligence community and the communication with a foreign leader involved no intelligence operation or activity aimed at collecting or analyzing foreign intelligence.
Well, this OLC opinion did not require transmission of the complaint to the committee's.
It did leave me with discretion to forward the complaint to the committee.
However, given the executive privilege issues I discussed, neither the inspector general nor I were able to share the details of the complaint at the time when the inspector general inform me that he still intended to notify the committees of the existence of the complaint.
Mr.
Chairman, I supported that decision to ensure the committees were kept as informed as possible of this process move forward.
I want to raise a few other points about the situation we find ourselves in.
First, I want to stress that I believe that the whistleblower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout.
I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law, respecting the privilege, nature of the information and patiently waiting while the executive privilege issues were resolved wherever possible.
We have worked in partnership with the Inspector General on this matter.
While we have different of opinions on the issue, whether or not is urgent concern I strongly believe in the role of the inspector general, I greatly value the independence he brings to and his dedication and its role in keeping me and the committees informed of matters within the Intelligence Committee.
Second, although executive privilege prevented us from sharing the details of the complaint with committees until recently, this does not mean that the complaint was ignored.
The inspector general and consultation with my office referred this matter to the Department of Justice for investigation.
Finally, I appreciate that in the past was a blower.
Complaints may have been provided to Congress regardless of whether they were deemed credible, was satisfied the urgent, recurrent urgent concern requirement.
However, I am not familiar with any prior instances where a whistleblower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues, including executive privilege.
I believe that this matter is unprecedented.
I also believe that I handle this matter in full compliance with the law at all times, and I have committed to doing so, sir.
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US acting Director of National Security Opening Statement - BBC News

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林宜悉 published on July 3, 2020
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