Government shutdown ‘extremely damaging’ to U.S. intelligence operations

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Acadia National Park ShutdownJosh Levs, (CNN) — The government shutdown is “extremely damaging” to U.S. intelligence operations, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday.

Clapper noted that he has worked in the intelligence field for 50 years, and “never seen anything like this.”

The shutdown “seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation,” he told a Senate panel.

The law allows intelligence agencies to hold on to the employees needed to protect against “imminent threat to life or property,” he noted. Following that guide, approximately 70% of employees were furloughed, he said.

“We do not consider any of our employees ‘non-essential,'” and officials had to make “very painful choices” about who would be furloughed, he added.

The shutdown affects the ability of the intelligence community to support the military, diplomats, and policy makers, Clapper explained.

“Damage will accumulate over time,” and the danger “will be insidious,” he warned.

And with intelligence workers facing financial struggles, particularly after already suffering through furloughs due to sequestration, “This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit,” Clapper said.

Intelligence services are setting up counseling to help employees handle financial issues, he said.

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