Coats testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., January 2019
Joshua Roberts / Reuters

At the end of July, Dan Coats, the U.S. director of national intelligence (DNI), announced his resignation. When he leaves office on August 15, the U.S. intelligence community will be left with two crises to confront. One is obvious and immediate: how to protect the objectivity and professionalism of the intelligence agencies against the rising tide of politicization by the White House. The second is more hidden and longer-term, but just as important: how to transform these agencies to cope with the dizzying technological breakthroughs that, as Michael Morell and I argued in an essay for this magazine earlier this year (“Spies, Lies, and Algorithms,” May/June 2019), are empowering U.S. adversaries. The next DNI must tackle both crises to safeguard the nation. 

So far, the political challenge has dominated headlines. President Donald Trump has compared intelligence officers to Nazis. He has accused the FBI of having “spied on”

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