TIME Rand Paul

Rand Paul Filibusters Patriot Act Renewal

Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 15, 2015, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine the need to reform asset forfeiture.
Andrew Harnik—AP Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 15, 2015, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine the need to reform asset forfeiture.

Presidential candidate Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to protest the renewal of the Patriot Act, a Bush administration-era law that enables government surveillance.

The Kentucky Republican argued that the programs authorized by the 2001 law improperly constrict Americans’ rights and grant overly broad powers to the National Security Agency.

“There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer,” he began. “That time is now, and I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”

Shortly after the speech began, the Paul campaign emailed supporters to say that he would “not yield one inch in this fight so long as my legs can stand.”

Paul began speaking at 1:18 p.m., when the Senate was in the midst of discussion of a massive trade deal with Asia, making it arguable whether it was technically a filibuster, a parliamentary procedure used to delay or prevent a vote.

Paul previously filibustered the nomination of CIA chief John Brennan in order to highlight what he considered the danger of drone strikes against U.S. citizens within the United States.

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie to Call For Larger Military, Defend Intelligence Collection

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Olivier Douliery—Getty Images New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

He'll call for more warships and military planes in a speech Monday

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will call for an expanded military and defend American intelligence programs Monday in a speech laying out his foreign policy vision in New Hampshire.

The all-but-certain Republican presidential candidate is set to criticize the emerging Iran nuclear agreement as well as President Obama’s handling of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to prepared remarks released by his political action committee.

“With Iran, the President’s eagerness for a deal on their nuclear program has him ready to accept a bad deal,” Christie will say.

Christie will issue a full-throated defense of American spying efforts, seeking to draw contrast with more dovish members of his own party, as well as many Democrats, who have unified against the National Security Agency since the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.

“They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie will say. “They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of the Bourne Identity or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more.”

“Let me be clear: all these fears are baloney,” Christie will add. “When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy. And we shouldn’t listen to people like Edward Snowden, a criminal who hurt our country and now enjoys the hospitality of President Putin—while sending us messages about the dangers of authoritarian government.”

Christie will also propose an expansion of federal defense spending, including a repeal of the mandatory budgetary caps known as sequestration.

“The Army and Marines should not be reduced below their pre-9/11 strength, and our active duty forces should be at 500,000 Army soldiers and 185,000 Marines,” he will say, drumming the call of the nation’s defense hawks. “Our Navy should have more ships,” adding the Navy needs at least 350 vessels. The Air Force, Christie will say, should have 2,000 combat aircraft and a total strength of 6,000 aircraft.

Christie’s call for an expanded military mirrors the plans of other Republicans, even the more dovish Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who earlier this year called for an expansion of the military budget.

Read more: Rand Paul Proposes Boosting Defense Spending

Christie has seen his path to the presidency narrow amid a troubled fiscal situation in his state and the continued fallout of the politically motivated closures of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge by former aides in 2013. Monday’s remarks are the third in a series of addresses designed to restart his presidential efforts, as he prepares to make his candidacy official in the coming months.

Casting himself as a decisive leader in contrast to Obama, whom he says has not defined a strategy for America in the world, Christie will argue that the current administration is alienating American allies. One piece of evidence he’ll cite: Last week, Obama was set to host Gulf leaders, but several, including Saudi King Salman, pulled out in an apparent snub to the White House.

“The price of inaction is steadily rising,” he will say. “Just last week we saw the embarrassment of almost all the Gulf leaders, including the Saudi king, pulling out of President Obama’s summit at Camp David. Our allies want policies, not photo ops, and we’re not listening to them.”

Christie will call for the linkage between the sanctions on Iran stemming from its nuclear program to that country’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East, including its support for Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen. Such suggestions have been rejected by the Obama Administration as an effort to undermine the nuclear deal.

TIME psychology

How to Get Smarter

elderly-reading-close-up
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Wouldn’t you like to know how to get smarter? Of course.

I’ve looked at the science on the subject many times in the past and there are some simple methods — like, believe it or not, exercise and even chewing gum.

But is that really going to move the needle over the long haul? Research shows that IQ isn’t all that valuable without a little discipline behind it.

So what’s going to really make a difference? Learning.

Cool. But learning new stuff takes time. And you’re busy. But what if you could pick up new skills super fast?

Ah-ha. Now we’re on to something. However, I’m no expert at this. But, luckily, I know a guy who is.

Tim Ferriss is the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek. And he’s also an expert at learning new stuff fast. In fact, his new TV show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, is about just that.

In the various episodes Tim tackles all kinds of skills from poker to rally car racing to chess — and then puts his new talents to the test. (He picks up the language Tagalog in 4 days and then does an interview in Tagalog on Filipino TV.)

So what can Tim teach you about accelerated learning? A lot. And all you have to remember is a simple acronym:

“DiSSS”

Those are the four steps: Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes. Tim explains in this video:

I’ll break down the steps for you below. Okay, let’s get learnin’.

1) Deconstruction

Picking up a language? Oh god, that takes forever… Wrong.

Every skill has parts. To learn effectively you need to break it down into the key elements. This makes something that may seem overwhelming and divides it into manageable chunks. Here’s Tim:

The D is deconstruction. You’re taking a complex skill like learning a language, tactical shooting, or swimming and breaking it down into components. For swimming you would have arm movement, leg movement, different strokes, etc. Try to break a skill down into 5-10 pieces.

(For more on the 8 things successful people do that make them great, click here.)

That’s pretty straightforward. But here’s where Tim’s expertise really helps…

2) Selection

Most classes or books start you out from the beginning and gradually build you up. That’s nice if you have a lot of time. You don’t.

We need to be smart about where we put our energy and focus if we want to make progress quickly. Forget what is fundamental and ask yourself what is most important to get to competency. Here’s Tim:

The first S is selection. That’s doing an 80-20 analysis and asking yourself, “Which 20% of these things I need to learn will get me 80% of the results that I want?”

So when learning a language, Tim doesn’t bother with the typical basics. He looks at what the most frequently used words are and studies those first.

That Spanish class taught you the word “Father” in the first week. But how often do you really talk about Dad? Here’s Tim:

You can become functionally fluent in any language, in my opinion, in 6-12 months. But you can do it in more like 8-12 weeks just by choosing the 1500 highest frequency words. What you study is more important than how you study it. Rosetta Stone is not going to help you if you’re studying the wrong words.

This jibes with the research. When I spoke to Sports Gene author David Epstein about how world class athletes train, he said the same thing: “The hallmark of expertise is figuring out what information is important.”

And what’s the first thing academic research shows helps undergraduates get better grades? Yup:

Learning occurs best when important information is selected from less important ideas, when selected information is organized graphically, when associations are built among ideas and when understanding is regulated through self-testing…

(For more of what top athletes can teach you about being the best at anything, click here.)

So you know what’s important. What’s next?

3) Sequencing

This is the thing most teachers, classes and books get wrong.

Not only do they not focus on what’s important but they don’t work on that stuff first. Here’s Tim:

The next S is sequencing. That’s just putting things in the right order. Putting things in the right progression, that’s really the secret sauce that is missing from almost any instructional book, DVD, video, class, etc.

When Tim was learning chess from champion Josh Waitzkin (whose life was the basis for the film “Searching for Bobby Fischer“) they did things the opposite from how most chess instruction works.

They didn’t start with the beginning of a chess game. They jumped straight to key moves that are applicable to the majority of interactions on the board. This allowed Tim to hang with top players after only a few days of practice. Here’s Tim:

Josh would basically do things in reverse. He took all the pieces off the board and started training me with King and Pawn versus King. By doing that he was teaching me not rote memorization of openings, but really powerful principles that can apply to the entire game in many different circumstances. Just by giving me a very short tutorial on a few principles with three pieces on the board, I went to Washington Square Park, and I was able to survive three or four times longer than I should have against a really savvy speed chess street hustler.

(To learn how to develop a photographic memory in four steps, click here.)

So you’ve broken your area of study into parts, figured out what is important, and you’re focusing on that first. What’s the final step?

4) Stakes

You won’t get fired from your job if you don’t learn to speak Russian. Your family won’t starve if you don’t master the guitar. And this is why you quit. Because you can.

You need an incentive to keep practicing. Or, even better: a penalty if you don’t practice. Here’s Tim:

Stakes is arguably the most important piece. By stakes, I mean consequences. Some type of reward or punishment to keep you on track and accountable. To prevent yourself from quitting, you need incentives.

So Tim recommends using what researchers call a “commitment device.”

Write a check for $100 to a political party you hate or a cause you are actively against. Give it to a friend. If you don’t achieve your goal or put in the hours, your friend mails the check. Boom. You’re now motivated.

(For more on how to conquer procrastination once and for all, click here.)

Okay, Tim has given us some powerful tools for learning. Let’s round them up.

Sum Up

Just remember this… actually, just remember “DiSSS”:

  1. Deconstruction: Break a skill down into its key elements.
  2. Selection: Figure out what’s important and what gets used most often.
  3. Sequencing: Work on the important stuff, not what chronologically comes first.
  4. Stakes: Use a “commitment device” to make sure you have skin in the game and don’t quit.

And hang out with smart people. Research shows it helps. (In fact, studies show stupidity is contagious.)

So what’s the best way to get started? This is no magic trick. It comes from the heart. The first step is to believe that you can become smarter:

Thinking about intelligence as changeable and malleable, rather than stable and fixed, results in greater academic achievement, especially for people whose groups bear the burden of negative stereotypes about their intelligence.

And learning doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Wanna be smarter? Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

…Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) did the same study in a classroom, telling elementary school teachers that they had certain students in their class who were “academic spurters.” In fact, these students were selected at random. Absolutely nothing else was done by the researchers to single out these children. Yet by the end of the school year, 30 percent of the the children arbitrarily named as spurters had gained an average of 22 IQ points, and almost all had gained at least 10 IQ points.

Want even more accelerated learning secrets?

In my next weekly email I’ll have powerful insights from Tim including his counterintuitive advice on how to retain skills and the one question he always asks experts so he gets their most valuable lessons quickly. Get it all by joining here.

Join over 185,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME intelligence

Report Claims American Psychological Association Secretly Supported Torture Policy

An Iraqi security officer patrols the grounds at the newly opened Baghdad Central Prison in Abu Ghraib on February 21, 2009 in Baghdad.
Wathiq Khuzaie—Getty Images An Iraqi security officer patrols the grounds at the newly opened Baghdad Central Prison in Abu Ghraib on February 21, 2009 in Baghdad.

This is the first time the A.P.A. has been investigated on the interrogation program

The American Psychological Association secretly worked with the George W. Bush administration to justify a post-9/11 torture policy, says a new report released Thursday.

The report, written by six health professionals and human rights activists, analyzed over 600 e-mails that they claim show how the group assisted in morally and ethically justifying the Bush-era interrogation program after graphic photos surfaced in 2004 showing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq tortured by U.S. Army personnel.

“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report concludes.

A spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association denied the accusations in the report, stating that there “has never been any coordination between A.P.A. and the Bush administration on how A.P.A. responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program.”

The interrogation program has since been discontinued and was criticized by the extensive Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture last year.

[NYT]

TIME intelligence

McConnell Introduces Bill to Extend Surveillance Under Patriot Act

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to the media following the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on April 21, 2015.
Bill Clark—AP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to the media following the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on April 21, 2015.

The bill comes amid a bipartisan effort to curb the NSA's expansive collection of Americans' phone records

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday evening that would renew several sections of the Patriot Act, which grants expansive powers of surveillance to intelligence agencies, that are set to expire this summer.

Among the act’s provisions that would be renewed until 2020 rather than expiring in June is Section 215, the National Journal reports. The hotly contested authority laid the legal groundwork for the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of metadata from millions of Americans’ phone records.

The bill appears to challenge a bipartisan effort to amend Section 215 with stricter guidelines on what information intelligence agents can collect and retain.

TIME intelligence

The CIA’s Latest Mission: Improving Diversity

CIA Headquarters
David Burnett—Pool/Getty Images

A weapons analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, Lisa was sorting resumes with a colleague when something shocking happened.

Lisa, who is black, was helping her white coworker find the best applicants for overseas posts, which are considered prestigious within the agency and can lead to more important jobs down the line. Lisa was midway through her own overseas posting and had already seen how it helped her career.

But looking at the resumes, her coworker casually said that she would not hire a black man.

“She told me that if there is a white man — doesn’t matter how capable the black man is — I’m picking the white man,” recalled Lisa. (At the request of the CIA, TIME agreed to withhold last names of agency employees, many of whom work undercover.) “As a minority, you know that, but to have someone tell you that? It’s telling.”

Like workplaces across the country, the CIA is striving to improve the diversity of its staff. And just like other companies, the agency nicknamed The Company has found that progress comes in fits and starts.

In interviews with more than a dozen black officers, TIME found that while the CIA has made diversity a top priority, it still struggles to recruit African-Americans and promote them to higher positions.

Diversity is not just important for its own sake. As an intelligence agency, the CIA lives and dies on its ability to interpret complex data about foreign countries. Black agents noted multiple times when their unique perspective as a minority within the United States led them to a breakthrough in understanding a foreign conflict.

The agency’s top leaders agree.

“Diversity is critical to the success of CIA’s mission. We need a workforce as diverse as the world we cover,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement to TIME. “CIA has come a long way in broadening the demographic of its senior ranks, but we still have significant work to do.”

To that end, Brennan launched the Diversity in Leadership Study to examine the current demographics of the agency’s senior ranks. A similar study on women, who make up 46% of the CIA workforce, was released in 2013.

A key part of the study, which is being directed by famed lawyer and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, will be recommendations on how to better foster an environment where people from all backgrounds can rise to the top.

That was not always a priority. According to Milo Jones and Philippe Silberzahn’s book Constructing Cassandra, in 1967 “there were fewer than 20 African Americans among the approximately 12,000 non-clerical CIA employees.”

Spenser, a black officer who oversees the Africa division, said that when he started in the 1990s, there was “not a single non-white division chief,” one of the highest-ranking positions in the agency.

The CIA would not disclose the size of its workforce nor its demographic makeup to TIME. But Spenser said that times have changed.

“We now have division chiefs that are Hispanic, that are Asian. That are black, women,” he said. “It’s completely different.”

As with other companies, a central part of the CIA’s efforts is recruiting. Intelligence experts say that the agency still has ground to make up on its reputation in the African-American community.

“The negative reputation has lingered on despite everyone’s best efforts,” says Mark Lowenthal, a former CIA officer and intelligence expert.

As the African-American community outreach manager for the CIA, Tiffany spends most of her time talking with black professional organizations about the agency. She said that she’s heard all kinds of misconceptions about the agency’s past and present, some of which she even believed herself in the past.

“When I was offered an opportunity to work for the agency, my initial response was, ‘oh hell no,’” Tiffany says. Now, she uses her story to get audiences comfortable with the idea of letting their friends and family members join the CIA.

Lowenthal remembers asking some young recruits — three black men — at their training graduation ceremony to get involved in recruiting as soon as possible.

“I said, go back to your schools and become mentors and recruiters,” Lowenthall recalls. “You’ll be much more effective than I can ever be.”

While not all officers participate in recruitment efforts, many black officers see it as part of their job. Reginald, a deputy chief of European analysis and a graduate of two historically black colleges — Howard University in Washington and Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. — makes it a point to recruit as often as possible, particularly at black schools.

Kim, who at 35 is already the chief of Africa analysis, recognizes the importance of recruiting.

“I actually went to a school not too long ago,” she says. “I saw their eyes get big when they noticed I was a young, African-American woman doing well at CIA. And I told them, you can come here and do this, too. I’m not that special.”

But recruiting is not enough. Within the agency, there are well-traveled paths to upper management that recruits need to navigate.

Lisa says she feels part of the problem is that white agents have done a better job of networking with higher ups that can recommend or “sponsor” junior officers for better positions. “They go to a different length to get positions than we do,” she said. “Often, they have an inside scoop, someone on the inside who can vouch for them.”

Michael, a 40-year veteran of the agency’s clandestine service, says a lot of black officers have felt that they have to prove they can do the work on their own. “We didn’t network,” he says.

He worked to change that, meeting with a handful of other black officers in the CIA cafeteria regularly to decompress and share advice.

“Even if we did a tour and came back three years or five years later, that roundtable was still there,” Michael says. It was important for black officers to have that space, and it’s something they continue today, gathering outside of Langley for social events and one-on-one chats.

“We made that a point of pride,” he says. “It was a thing of, ‘I may not get there, but we want to position you to get to the top.’”

TIME portfolio

See the Places of Power at the Center of Canada’s Controversial Anti-Terror Law

Ottawa's core is occupied by the federal government, coloring its inhabitants' everyday experiences

Following last year’s attacks at Ottawa’s National War Memorial, Canada’s conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced a sweeping anti-terrorism act that would extend the powers of the country’s surveillance and policing bodies.

Civil liberties organizations, from Amnesty International to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, have opposed the draft legislation, calling for it to be withdrawn.

For local photographer Tony Fouhse, these events are just the latest to tarnish the idyllic image Ottawa’s tourism board has worked hard to showcase. Already between 2007 and 2010, Fouhse portrayed the capital’s narcotic addicts, forcing people to recognize that less fortunate ones shared their “hospitable” streets.

“Because I like doing things that stand in contrast to one another, I wondered who the opposite of drug users were,” he tells TIME. “They are the disempowered, so it made sense to look at the powerful. Ottawa being the country’s seat of government, I wondered how it manifested itself throughout the city,” explains the 61 year-old who has been working on the series Official Ottawa since 2013.

He drew up a list of places and people he felt embodied power: the Department of National Defense, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters, the residence of the Prime Minister, parliament, civil servants, official mascots. He walked through the city with his 4×5 camera to reveal the idiosyncrasies that exists when memory, heritage and authority congregate, like a non-descript sign pointing towards “war” – shorthand for the Canadian War Museum – or pastoral flower blossoms in front of the secret services’ offices. He tried different avenues to get in the Conservative Party building – to no avail, no one would grant him permission – until he realized, that his standing outside looking up at this monolith structure would be a far better portrait than a picture taken from the inside.

“The core of the city is occupied by the federal government and its associates,” he says. “It colors our everyday experiences in ways that we’re barely aware of. Most of the time, we’ll only consider our environment if it’s magnificent. Ottawa doesn’t have that. It’s not Rome or Paris. It’s not grandiose. It’s grey sensibleness,” remarks Fouhse who has been living in the city for the past three decades.

At a time when most media outlets are looking for the sentimental and the sensational, Fouhse’s images are oddly quiet; dull moments frozen in time, unremarkable frigid monuments exalted on film. Yet, a sinister tension prevails. Now, in the aftermath of the October shootings and ahead of a vote that may see Canada beef up its national security apparatus, his photos strike as foreboding.

“If you pay attention to the peripheral, you might notice things that you wouldn’t otherwise,” he says. “What you’re doing in that case, is trying to go behind, beyond the public image to see what lurks in the shadows.”

Fouhse wants to compel others to do the same; to, in his own words, “take a step back and to the left.” He intends to share his offbeat view of Canada’s capital through a free newspaper-like publication, for which he is raising funds via Kickstarter. He hopes that people waiting for their turn at the dentist or going about their daily commute might stumble upon it, pick it up and be nudged to look at their surroundings a little differently.

Official Ottawa is too quiet to be an act of civil disobedience,” he says. “In fact, I’m not even sure that art can have that power nowadays. It’s more of a social service announcement, an antidote to the tax-funded Harper-distributed propaganda.”

Tony Fouhse is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Ottawa, Canada.

Laurence Butet-Roch is a freelance writer, photo editor and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Boreal Collective.

TIME Research

Prolonged Breastfeeding Linked to Higher IQ and Wealth in Adulthood

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Getty Images

New research suggests that breastfeeding newborns longer helps enhance brain development

Children that breastfeed for longer periods end up smarter, more educated and wealthier in adulthood, according to a new study.

According to research published in the Lancet Global Health journal, children who breastfeed for at least 12 months scored almost four points higher on IQ tests, attended school for a year longer and made 15% more money at 30 years old, when compared with their peers who suckled for less than a month.

Researchers in Brazil surveyed almost 3,500 individuals born in the state of Pelotas in 1982 about their breastfeeding habits.

The study’s authors say the uptick in intelligence is likely tied to the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids present in breast milk that are essential for brain development.

“Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role,” said lead author Bernardo Lessa Horta, a professor at Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil.

[Science Daily]

TIME intelligence

CIA Director Says ISIS Not Islamic, But ‘Psychopathic’

John Brennan
Richard Drew—AP CIA Director John Brennan addresses a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations, in New York, Friday, March 13, 2015.

"We need to expose just how murderous and psychopathic these individuals are"

CIA Director John Brennan has defended the White House’s efforts to avoid using the word “Islamic” to describe extremist terror groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

At a question and answer session at the Center for Foreign Relations in New York City on Friday, Brennan said using “Islamic” or “Muslim” to describe ISIS militants gives them “the type of Islamic legitimacy that they are so desperately seeking, but which they don’t deserve at all.”

“I do think it does injustice to the tenets of religion when we attach a religious moniker to them,” Brennan said.

President Barack Obama has come under fire from some conservative commentators and politicians for not identifying the extremists with the religion they claim to represent. Addressing the criticism head on at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last month, Obama said that those who use the religious descriptors are peddling a “lie” that helps ISIS recruit Muslims to its cause.

An estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, including several thousand from Western countries, have traveled to the region to join ISIS, which has proven adept at using social media to reach a global audience. Brennan announced last week a sweeping reorganization of the CIA that included the creation of a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” devoted to cyber operations.

At the talk on Friday, which was hosted by CBS News’ Charlie Rose, Brennan warned that defeating ISIS’s capabilities and appeal will “take years.”

“We need to expose just how murderous and psychopathic these individuals are,” he said.

TIME National Security

U.S. Intel Chief: Roughly 40 Americans Have Returned From Syria

Director Of Nat'l Intelligence James Clapper Speaks At Council On Foreign Relations
Bryan Thomas—Getty Images Director of National Intelligence James Clapper speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations on March 2, 2015 in New York City.

James Clapper said the U.S. faces more global challenges than at any time in his half-century career in the intelligence community

About 40 Americans have returned from the jihadist battlefields of Syria — but they don’t pose a threat to American security, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Monday.

Clapper said during a question-and-answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City that about 180 Americans have attempted to travel or have succeeded in traveling to Syria since the ongoing conflict began. But he said the Americans who have returned went for “humanitarian purposes or some other reasons that don’t relate to plotting” and they have not shown “nefarious” intentions.

“If they come back, and they are not involved in plotting, or don’t have nefarious purpose, that’s their right and privilege as an American citizen to come back,” Clapper said. The office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

About 20,000 foreign fighters from more than 90 countries are believed to have gone to Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has seized large swaths of territory. That has raised fears of radicalized fighters returning to carry out attacks in their home countries.

Last week, the FBI arrested three Brooklyn men and charged them with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Two of the three men allegedly planned to travel to Syria, and the FBI said the men had discussed coordinating possible domestic attacks.

On Monday, Clapper said the U.S. faces more global challenges than at any time in his half-century career in the intelligence community.

“I’ve been in one capacity or another in the intel business for 52 years, and I don’t remember a time when we have been beset by more crises and challenges around the world and the diversity of these crises and challenges than we have today,” said Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general. That comment came days after he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that 2014 was the most lethal year for global terrorism on record.

In 2014, 13,000 attacks killed 31,000 people around the world, up from 11,500 attacks and 22,000 killed a year earlier, Clapper said at the Senate hearing on Thursday. Fifty percent of those attacks took place in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan — and ISIS was responsible for more of the attacks than any other group.

Clapper clarified on Monday that the terror assessment he gave Congress was not at odds with a statement from Secretary of State John Kerry, who drew criticism for telling a House subcommittee last week that global violent conflict is lower than it has ever been, saying that Americans were “safer than ever.”

Kerry “was thinking of a different context,” Clapper said. “What he was thinking about was the more cataclysmic case in point of — case with the Cold War. And he’s right; in that context we are a safer country. But I was looking at more the here and now, you know, what happened in 2014 and what kind of what we project out in the next year.”

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