Spy agencies forced to furlough 70 percent of civilian employees

The government shutdown has forced spy agencies to furlough 70 percent of their civilian employees, according to a senior intelligence official.

The furloughed employees include both support staff and intelligence analysts, according to the official.

Furloughs are being ordered across the federal government Tuesday as officials decide which employees are “essential” and should stay on the job despite the failure of Congress to approve a funding measure.

A spokesman for the director of national intelligence warned the shutdown would hamper the ability of the United States to track threats to national security.

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“The Intelligence Community’s ability to identify threats and provide information for a broad set of national security decisions will be diminished for the duration," Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said in a statement.

“The immediate and significant reduction in employees on the job means that we will assume greater risk and our ability to support emerging intelligence requirements will be curtailed."

He said that the remaining intelligence employees who are still on the job "will be stretched to the limit and forced to focus only on the most critical security needs.”

A government official familiar with the military's plans told The Hill last week that the shutdown would be unlikely to affect "core" National Security Agency operations. 

According to the Defense Department's shutdown plan, intelligence and surveillance activities necessary for national security are excepted from the shutdown. But the document notes that "general political and economic intelligence unrelated to ongoing or contingency military operations" are not excepted. 

Clapper and NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander will testify about their controversial surveillance programs at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Blumenthal: ‘Credible case' of obstruction of justice can be made against Trump MORE (D-Calif.) warned on Tuesday that the furloughs will "cripple" the CIA, the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence offices.

"Our shutdown is the biggest gift we could possibly give our enemies," she said in a speech on the Senate floor.

She said Clapper prepared a classified report detailing how the shutdown affects the intelligences agencies, and that senators can view the report in her committee office. 

—Updated at 6:43 p.m.