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Director of the office of national intelligence said institutions like rule of law are "under assault"

He said about two-thirds of countries exhibit some characteristics of instability

Washington CNN —  

The nation’s intelligence chief said Thursday that he is concerned about stability in the U.S. and the fragility of American institutions, calling them “under assault” and pointing to today’s heated rhetoric.

“I do worry,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Aspen Security Forum, after being asked if he thought the current environment of racial tensions, gun violence, terrorism and declining confidence in the political process was threatening stability.

The former general noted that the intelligence community maintains metrics that determine whether a nation is considered stable, with about two-thirds of countries exhibiting some aspects of instability.

“I guess if you apply that same measure against us, well, we are starting to exhibit some of them, too,” he assessed.

Clapper noted that he was speaking as a private citizen and not in any government capacity.

“We pride ourselves on the institutions that have evolved over hundreds of years and I do worry about the, you know, fragility of those institutions,” Clapper said.

He continued that he was worried that American “legal institutions, the rule of law, protection of citizens’ liberty, privacy” being “somewhat under assault in this country, and that’s not being helped by a lot of the rhetoric that we’re hearing.”

Clapper, who oversees the organizations that comprise the intelligence community, testified before Congress in February that the current geopolitical climate was the most dangerous threat environment he had ever seen during his more than five decades in public service.

The intelligence chief was also asked Thursday how international countries were responding to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric pertaining to nuclear proliferation and other issues. Clapper responded that “such rhetoric is very bothersome to our foreign interlocutors, our foreign partners.”

He added, “It is a worry to them, it really is, so I’ll just let it go at that rather than rendering any personal opinion. But I can, I think it is legitimate for me to report what I hear from many foreign partners and interlocutors.”