With 70 percent of National Security Agency employees currently furloughed because of the government shutdown, top intelligence officials warned Congress Wednesday that the ongoing funding lapse could be putting national security at risk.
"The damage will be insidious," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Each day that goes by, the jeopardy increases. This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit."
The warning was enough to warrant alarm from members of both sides of the aisle.
"You scared the hell out of us!" Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said.
Lawmakers – who appeared incredulous at the percentage of NSA employees not currently on the job – urged Clapper to immediately contact the president about furlough relief.
Clapper and NSA Director General Keith Alexander said that NSA is staffing on a day-to-day basis as the shutdown continues into its second day with no clear path for Congress to end the standoff.
While Clapper said he considers all intelligence workers essential, shutdown standards require they staff according to "imminent threat.”
Carrie Dann contributed reporting.