Erosion of democracy is a very real problem in many parts of the world: CIA chief

Washington: The erosion of democracy is a very real problem in many parts of the world, CIA Director William Burns has told US lawmakers, explaining that this trend could be reversed if the people’s faith in this form of governance is restored.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director addressed members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the worldwide threat assessment of the US on Wednesday.

I think the problem of erosion of democracies, as Freedom House points out, is a very real one in many parts of the world, those that have established democracies and those where democratic governance is quite fragile, Burns said, responding to question from Senator Michael Bennet.

According to government-funded non-profit Freedom House, Burns said, democracy around the world has been in retreat for 15 years against authoritarianism.

Countries like China and Russia want nothing more to continue for another 15 years, or maybe another 50 years, he said.

How do you assess the primary threats to democracy around the world, and which regions have we seen the most significant democratic retreats? Which regions do you consider most at risk, and how are our adversaries thinking about this? the senator asked.

Burns said that the erosion of democracy, partly has to do across the board with questions about the ability of democratic governance to deliver.

“I think you’ve seen some of that in our own country in recent years. We haven’t been immune from that at all,” he said.

“So, the challenge — and I think President (Joe) Biden has emphasised this is working with other democracies, as an analytical judgment — (is) to help restore that faith in the ability of democratic governance to deliver for people, Burns said.

That deprives authoritarian leaderships, whether it’s the Chinese Communist Party or (President) Vladimir Putin’s Russia, of an argument that they use that somehow authoritarian systems are better able to deliver. The reality is that there’s a great deal of resilience in democratic systems. But it’s important for all of us that have democratic governments to demonstrate that, to renew ourselves, the CIA director said.

He urged the lawmakers to be mindful of the proliferation of surveillance technologies.

For example, one tool that authoritarians use to strengthen their grip and make it more difficult for democratic governance to emerge in lots of fragile societies around the world, he said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said certainly social media has become in many ways the key amplifier to domestic violence extremism, just as it has to malign foreign influence.

It proves a level the same things that attract people to it for good reasons, are also capable of causing all kinds of harms that we’re entrusted with trying to protect the American people against, he said.

It creates speed dissemination, efficiency, accessibility, a level of decentralised connectivity, he said.

I think I would say that both, with respect to malign foreign influence and with respect to domestic violent extremism, people need to understand better what the information is that they are reading,” Wray said.

A greater level of discerning skepticism is a crucial ingredient not just to protect from foreign misinformation, but also of violent extremism, he added.

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