Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe expressed support for the Central Intelligence Agency’s creation of a unit focused on the threat from China in a recent exclusive interview with Breitbart News, noting the move is in line with what he had begun in the Trump administration.
“I’m glad that they’re coming around to our way of thinking on this and being honest about China as the threat that they truly are,” Ratcliffe said in the interview on Monday.
He said, at the time, critics of the Trump administration had accused him of focusing on China in order to downplay the threat from Russia but that the CIA’s move shows his concerns were well-founded.
Ratcliffe told Breitbart News:
This is exactly what we were working toward but were criticized for at the time — it’s a recognition of the necessary shift to China. Some folks incorrectly thought when I talked about the need to shift our focus to China that it was for political reasons as opposed to national security reasons.
The events that have unfolded clearly show that I was being truthful. But I’ll give credit where credit is due — better late than never. I’m just glad that there’s finally a conversation that is consistent with what the intelligence reflects.
There has been mounting bipartisan concern in recent weeks as China has significantly ramped up its military activity near Taiwan, a self-ruled island with a robust democratic government and a strong informal relationship with the United States, but which China considers as part of its territory.
China on October 4 conducted a massive show of force against Taiwan by sending 39 warplanes — a record number — into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and two days later sent an even higher number of warplanes — 52 into Taiwan’s ADIZ.
TAIWAN: 52 Chinese aircraft entered Taiwan's ADIZ today, this breaks the previous record of 39 aircraft 2 days ago. pic.twitter.com/H0IFDkwZfj
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) October 4, 2021
Days later, the CIA announced the formation of the “China Mission Center.” The New York Times suggested it was a continuation of what had been started under the Obama administration.
However, Ratcliffe had taken significant steps during his tenure to reorient the intelligence community (IC) away from its focus on post-9/11 counterterrorism and towards great power competition with China.
For example, Ratcliffe had increased the IC’s China budget by 20 percent.
“When people ask me why I did that, I say, ‘Because no one would let me increase it by 40%.’ I had an $85 billion combined annual budget for both the national intelligence program and military intelligence program. My perspective was, ‘Whatever we’re spending on countering China, it isn’t enough.’ You’re starting to see more people agree with me on that,” he said.
Ratcliffe also took the unprecedented step of being the first director of national intelligence to publish an op-ed while in office, to warn the American public of the threat from China. He wrote in the op-ed published by Wall Street Journal on December 3, 2020:
Within intelligence agencies, a healthy debate and shift in thinking is already under way. For the talented intelligence analysts and operators who came up during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and Russia have always been the focus. For others who rose through the ranks at the turn of this century, counterterrorism has been top of mind. But today we must look with clear eyes at the facts in front of us, which make plain that China should be America’s primary national security focus going forward.
Ratcliffe also took a stand within the intelligence community against analysts who wanted to downplay intelligence on Chinese activities to influence the 2020 election.
He wanted a report due to Congress on foreign influence efforts in the election to accurately reflect there was an ongoing debate among intelligence analysts on the significance of Chinese influence operations. There was also a disagreement over if there should be a China section in the report. Radcliffe was concerned that proper tradecraft, which would be to reflect the disagreement, would not be followed out of concerns it would give then-President Donald Trump a potential political talking point.
The IC’s analytic ombudsman later found that intelligence analysts had politicized China reporting and were reluctant to present it due to their disagreement with the Trump administration’s policies.
Ratcliffe also briefed lawmakers about Chinese influence operations targeting members of Congress at a rate of approximately six times that of Russia and 12 times that of Iran. He was attacked by Democrats such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who accused him of using China as a political ploy to please Trump and distract from Russia.
Ratcliffe told Breitbart News that although Russia is a national security threat in a lot of ways, it is not the existential threat that China is.
“China has the largest Navy in the world right now. Russia doesn’t have an operable aircraft carrier — not one. It was always so disingenuous and dangerous for some people to downplay the threat of China for the sake of making it seem like Russia was our primary national security threat,” he said.
Ratcliffe also continued to speak out on the threat from China even after leaving government, writing in Fox News last month:
I had access to all of the U.S. government’s most sensitive intelligence related to the pandemic. My informed opinion is that the lab leak theory isn’t just a ‘possibility,’ at the very least it is more like a probability, if not very close to a certainty.
Although critics have called Ratcliffe or anyone raising the lab leak theory a “conspiracy theorist,” the WSJ recently published an op-ed arguing in favor of the lab leak theory. It said:
If the novel coronavirus were engineered by scientists pursuing gain-of-function research, there would be no instances of community infection until it escaped from the laboratory. The World Health Organization investigation analyzed those stored samples and found zero pre-pandemic infections. This is powerful evidence favoring the lab-leak theory.
Cliff Sims, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Strategy and Communications, told Breitbart News in a statement, “History will look back on Ratcliffe’s tenure as DNI as the moment the U.S. Intelligence Community shifted from its post-9/11 focus on counterterrorism to an era of great power competition with China.”
“It’s encouraging to see that shift continue now. The intelligence is crystal clear that the Chinese Communist Party represents our greatest national security challenge,” he added.