Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
Friday, February 13, 2009
Excerpt from “Financial Crisis Called Top Security Threat to U.S.”
Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told Congress yesterday that instability in countries around the world caused by the current global economic crisis, rather than terrorism, is the primary near-term security threat to the United States.
“Roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown,” Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, delivering the first annual threat assessment in six years in which terrorism was not presented as the primary danger to this country.
Making his first appearance before the panel as President Obama’s top intelligence adviser, Blair said the most immediate fallout from the worldwide economic decline for the United States will be “allies and friends not being able to meet their defense and humanitarian obligations.” He also saw the prospect of possible refugee flows from the Caribbean to the United States and a questioning of American economic and financial leadership in the world.
But Blair also raised the specter of the “high levels of violent extremism” in the turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s along with “regime-threatening instability” if the economic crisis persists over a one-to-two-year period.