Top Republican warns of ‘serious’ national security threaton February 14, 2024 at 11:19 pm

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The White House said the threat is not imminent and will brief congressional leaders on Thursday.

Mike TurnerImage source, Getty Images

The chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee has issued a vague warning of a “serious national security threat” facing the US.

The cryptic statement from Republican Mike Turner called on President Joe Biden to declassify the threat, although no further details were given.

The White House has said the threat is not imminent, but that congressional leaders would be briefed this week.

Lawmakers have until Friday to review intelligence about the threat.

In a statement posted by the House Intelligence Committee on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Mr Turner said only that the committee has “made available to all members of Congress information concerning a serious national security threat”.

“I am requesting that President Biden declassify all information relating to this threat so that Congress, the administration and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat,” the statement added.

A memo sent to members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night that was obtained by Punchbowl News provided few additional details, noting only that the “urgent matter” is in “regard to a destabilising foreign military capability”.

The intelligence is available for lawmakers to view in a secure facility within the US Capitol complex until Friday, 16 February.

Some reports in US media suggest the warning is related to Russian attempts to develop a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon. The New York Times, citing current and former US officials, said the weapon was not yet in orbit.

The top Democrat on the committee, Connecticut’s Jim Himes, said in a statement that while the classified threat is “significant”, it “is not a cause for panic”.

“As to whether more can be declassified about the issues, that is a worthwhile discussion but it is not a discussion to be had in public,” he added.

Similarly, House Speaker Mike Johnson said that there is “no need for public alarm”.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner and Vice-Chairman Marco Rubio said in a statement that their committee has been “rigorously tracking this issue from the start” and “are discussing an appropriate response with the administration.”

“We must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for US action,” the statement added.

Asked about the threat at the White House, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that he had offered to personally brief the so-called “Gang of Eight” comprised of House and Senate leaders from both parties and the top lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

A briefing for the House members of the wider group – which includes Mr Turner, Mr Johnson and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries – had been scheduled for Thursday, 15 February.

“I’m a bit surprised that Congressman Turner came out publicly today in advance of a meeting on the books for me to go sit with him alongside our intelligence and defence professionals tomorrow,” Mr Sullivan said. “I’m not in a position to say anything further today.”

Mr Sullivan later added that the Biden administration is “protecting the national security of the United States and the American people”.

“Americans understand that there are a range of threats and challenges in the world that we’re dealing with every single day, and those threats and challenges range from terrorism to state actors,” he said. “And we have to contend with them.”

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