We’ve seen technological advances before. But never have we seen the convergence of so many new technologies changing so much so fast. This moment is challenging American intelligence agencies in three profound ways.
First, technological breakthroughs are transforming the threat landscape by generating new uncertainties and empowering new adversaries. During the Cold War, America had one principal enemy: the Soviet Union. The Cold War was a dangerous time, but it was simpler. America’s top intelligence priority was clear. Every foreign policy decision was viewed through the lens of “What would Moscow think?”
Now, a wide array of bad actors is leveraging technology to threaten across vast distances. China is launching massive cyberattacks to steal American intellectual property and building space weapons to cut off US military satellite communications before the fighting ever starts. Russia is using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to wage information warfare.
Three dozen countries have autonomous combat drones and at least nine have already used them. Terrorist groups are using online video games to recruit followers and Google Earth to plan their attacks. Despots in developing nations are employing high tech repression tools. Weak states and non-state actors can inflict massive disruption, destruction, and deception with the click of a mouse.