November 3, 2011 | Washington, DC | Celebrating Women Leaders Dinner
Technology, Terrorism, and Intelligence:
Economic and Security Challenges in a Globalizing World
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

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FeinsteinOn November 3, 2011, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, addressed WFPG on "Technology, Terrorism, and Intelligence: Economic and Security Challenges in a Globalizing World" in a conversation with New York Times Pentagon Correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller. Topics of discussion included cyber security, Iran, and withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bumiller asked Senator Feinstein about threats to US cyber security, particularly from China and Russia. Feinstein replied that it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed through cyber agreements as well as national laws. While government networks have made an effort to become more secure, the private sector is resistant to the implementation of security standards.

Another topic of discussion was the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group allied with the Taliban. Feinstein feels that in order for the US to consider negotiations with the Haqqani Network, they must change their ways. Unfortunately, they seem unwilling to do so. She cautioned that the US needs to withdraw from Afghanistan carefully and slowly. A resurgence of Taliban rule would have a devastating effect on Afghan women and girls. Similarly, the US needs to be cautious in its withdrawal from Iraq, as Iran has been aggressive in its attempts to exert influence in Iraq.

On the subject of Iran, Bumiller questioned Feinstein about whether the recent plot to murder the Saudi Arabian Ambassador is a sign that Iran's government is becoming more aggressive, or whether it was the work of the Quds Force, which is the external arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Feinstein believes that the Quds force was certainly involved, but doubts that high level government officials were made aware of the plan.

Bumiller also raised the issue of whether Israel is likely to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Feinstein replied that based on her meetings with Israeli government officials, she believes that Israel is ready to act. She feels that this would be a big mistake. In her opinion, sanctions have been effective and Israel needs to be patient. However, the US must also begin negotiations with Iran, as silence has had negative consequences. She also encouraged Israel to relieve tension through coming to an agreement with Palestine.

Senator Feinstein says what currently keeps her up at night is the incredibly polarized situation in the Congress and the Senate of the United States, which makes compromise on budget cuts very difficult. Feinstein does not feel that cuts will have a negative impact on intelligence. Since 9/11, the quality of intelligence has increased greatly and there is better communication between agencies. She is however resistant to decreasing foreign aid, which accounts for only 1% of the budget.

The Senator was asked to reflect on the challenges she faced early in her career. When she first ran for office in 1969, it was unusual for women to enter politics and she did not feel supported by other women. Happily, she feels that this is no longer the case today, and "that's one of the greatest things because it may be up to us to right this world, and I really think we can."


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