Nations looking to recruit U.S. spies have an opportunity in the government shutdown, the national intelligence director said Wednesday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said it could be easier for enemies to recruit U.S. spies among the federal employees hit by furloughs from the sequester and now the shutdown.
"This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence service to recruit, particularly as our employees already ... [subjected] to furloughs driven by sequestration, are gonna have even greater financial challenges," he said.
"I've been in the intelligence business for about 50 years. I've never seen anything like this," Clapper added during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.
Clapper said the loss of income from sequestration and the shutdown could make members of the intelligence community more susceptible to bribes.
The furloughed employees include both support staff and intelligence analysts, according to the official.
"I think this, on top of the sequestration cuts that were already taken ... seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation and its citizens," Clapper told committee members Wednesday, regarding the counterintelligence threat posed by the shutdown.
"The danger here, of course, that this [threat] will accumulate over time [and] the damage will be insidious," he added.
When Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Clapper, point blank, whether the intelligence community could guarantee the security of the United States in the face of the ongoing shutdown, Clapper said no.
"I don't feel that I can make such a guarantee to the American people," he told Grassley.
"It would be much more difficult to make such a guarantee as each day of this shutdown goes by," Clapper added.
Clapper's concerns come a day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters the ongoing shutdown is already damaging America's reputation among core military allies.
Speaking to reporters during a goodwill trip to Asia, Hagel said he has been peppered with questions from Japanese and South Korean leaders about the shutdown.
"It does cast a very significant pall over America's credibility to our allies when this kind of thing happens," he said.