(NewsNation) — Sitting before Congress Wednesday, the five top U.S. intelligence officials made it clear that they consider China atop the list of threats to the United States.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier and NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee during the panel’s annual hearing on worldwide threats.
“The People’s Republic of China, which is increasingly challenging the United States economically, technologically, politically and militarily around the world, remains our unparalleled priority,” said Haines.
The hearing followed the release of the intelligence community’s unclassified annual threat assessment report.
Intelligence officials maintained that China’s burgeoning relationship with Moscow will continue while limiting its public support.
“Is it a temporary marriage of convenience or is it a long-term love affair?” asked. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, “It is continuing to deepen.”
Official listed growing concerns over Americans’ use of TikTok, which the FBI sees as synonymous with handing over personal information to the Chinese government.
“If you were to ask Americans if (they) would like to turn over … all (their) data, to the CCP,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “most Americans would say, I’m not down with that — as my kids would say.”
TikTok is increasingly being shunned by a majority of senators on Capitol Hill, with members from both parties now pushing for a nationwide ban.
During the hearing, a fiery exchange came between Haines and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who took issue with the assessment that domestic violent extremists motivated by racism are a particular threat to Americans at home.
“How many people were killed by fentanyl last year?” Cotton asked.
Haines replied, “As you know, it’s over 100,000.”
“So isn’t that a more lethal threat?” Cotton asked.
“Absolutely,” Haines replied. “But it’s not being compared against fentanyl in that statement. It’s in the context of terrorist threat.”
An overarching theme of Wednesday’s hearing is that global threats continue to evolve beyond military concerns.
During the hearings, Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., said it was fair to continue questioning the origins of COVID-19 as intelligence officials blamed a lack of consensus on China’s lack of cooperation.
“We can no longer just pay attention to who has the most tanks, airplanes or missiles,” Warner said.