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Gov’t Shutdown ‘Extremely Damaging’ – US Intel Director

RIA Novosti

00:41 03/10/2013 WASHINGTON, October 2 (RIA Novosti) – As a partial shutdown of the US government dragged into its second day Wednesday, the man in charge of the country’s intelligence community offered blunt warnings for members of Congress, telling them the standoff harms national security and compromises the nation’s ability to keep its citizens safe.

“This seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"This affects our global capability to support the military, to support diplomacy, to support our policymakers," he told senators, adding that the danger increases the longer the shutdown continues.

“The damage will be insidious, so each day that goes by the jeopardy increases," Clapper said.

An estimated 70 percent of intelligence workers have been classified as non-essential and furloughed because of the shutdown, National Security Agency (NSA) director Gen. Keith Alexander told the senators, drawing a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

"The intelligence community either needs better lawyers who can make big changes to the workforce or are you over-employing in those areas?" asked Grassley, the ranking Republican on the committee.

"It can't be that 70 percent of the intelligence community is being furloughed and we’re still able to meet our national security responsibilities," he said.

Clapper said civilian workers would stay on the job only if their work involves "an imminent threat to life or property."

Members of Congress have not been able to agree on a routine spending bill needed to keep the government running in the new budget year, which began Oct. 1.

Republicans want the spending bill tied to their efforts to block the rollout of the new health care law, known as Obamacare, a key aspect of which also went into effect on Tuesday. US President Barack Obama has refused to negotiate delays to the health care law.

The standoff will cause financial challenges for intelligence workers whose jobs have been put on hold, and creates “a dreamland” for foreign spy services looking “to recruit,” said Clapper.

"I’ve never seen anything like this," he said, adding that the government shutdown and furloughs did not just impact Washington, but affects “our global capability."

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