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House intel briefing on worldwide threat assessment delayed

The leaders of the intelligence community will not appear before the House Intelligence Committee next week for a public hearing on the top threats facing the country, as conversations about timing continue. Chairman Adam Schiff had requested the agency heads to commit to a public and closed-door session on Wednesday, February 12.  
 
"We are still having productive discussions with the committees on the timing of the Worldwide Threat Assessment hearings," a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said Friday.
 
A House Intelligence committee official confirmed no public hearing would be held next week and that discussions were ongoing. "We…look forward to their agreeing to attend the one public oversight hearing with all major [intelligence community] agencies the Committee holds each year," the official said.

Schiff sent a letter on January 15 to acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire requesting the intelligence community's testimony on February 12. "The hearing provides an opportunity for IC senior to provide an unclassified, yet important broad understanding of how threats have evolved and what the nation can expect in the year to come," Schiff wrote. 

The hearing has, in previous years, taken place in open and classified settings before both panels annually in the first half of the year – as early as January and as late as May. It has convened, among others, the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the CIA, NSA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Aligning the schedules of multiple senior officials can affect the hearing's timing. 

Senate aides familiar with that panel's discussions likewise said no hearing date had been set yet.  

The hearing serves as a rare opportunity for the leaders of largely clandestine organizations to publicly elaborate their major areas of concern. It also allows lawmakers to pose questions to senior intelligence leaders about how policymakers have characterized their agencies' assessments.
 
CBS News previously reported that staff-level conversations between the committees and intelligence agencies were underway amid concerns that public testimony could expose intelligence chiefs to politicized inquiries from lawmakers and criticism from the president. 
 
President Trump, who issued a series of tweets criticizing some of the assessments articulated by intelligence officials during the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing last year, later summoned CIA Director Gina Haspel and then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to the Oval Office. He ultimately said he and they were "very much in agreement" on national security issues and the media had mischaracterized the directors' public statements.  
 
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House panel, told CBS News earlier in the week that the committee would insist on holding a public hearing this year. The last worldwide threats hearing before the House took place in 2016.
 
"We need the American people to know what the threats are and then justify why we're investing in protecting people from those threats," Swalwell said. "They need to answer to congress and we're going to keep pressing."

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