The top U.S. intelligence officer says that terrorism remains the greatest threat to the nation, although the primary threat from the al-Qaida terrorist group has been weakened.
“We’ve apprehended numerous dangerous actors throughout the world and weakened much of al-Qaida’s core capabilities, including its operations, training and its propaganda,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at congressional hearing.
But Clapper also testified that al-Qaida’s main objective of attacking the West has not changed, despite the group’s operational degradation.
Halting terrorist attacks by al-Qaida and degrading threats from others has required deep engagement with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of numerous other nations in the years since the attacks on September 11, 2001, Clapper said. His testimony was part of a hearing held by the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee to review the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment.
“Counterterrorism is central to our overseas operations, notably in Afghanistan,” Clapper testified. “And while progress in our efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida is often hard won, we have seen and we will continue to see success in governance, security and economic development that will erode the willingness of the Afghan people to support the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies.”
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers said that in its role of oversight of the nation’s intelligence community, the committee recognizes that the intelligence community is vital to helping protect the nation against an array of worldwide threats. “Our job here in Congress is to make sure that our intelligence agencies have the tools and authorities they need,” Rogers added.
The U.S. intelligence community includes numerous civilian and military intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that are charged with gathering information and carrying out missions to thwart threats and protect the U.S. homeland and American citizens.
In addition to threats posed by terrorism in the United States and across the world, another major concern is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Clapper told the House committee. “The proliferation threat environment is a fluid, borderless arena that reflects the broader global reality of an increasingly free movement of people, goods and information,” he said.
Clapper testified that Iran is a key challenge because of what he described as an unusual confluence of events — an increasingly rigid, autocratic, coercive government that is defiant toward the West while it continues to pursue development of a nuclear weapons capability.
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs also pose a serious threat, both regionally and beyond,” Clapper testified.
Clapper said the United States is living in an interconnected, interdependent world where instability among nations can arise and spread quickly beyond borders, as is being witnessed in parts of the Middle East and North Africa — specifically, in Tunisia and in Egypt. It remains a challenge for the U.S. intelligence community to be able to track and report on these types of events, he said.
Other areas of concern for the intelligence community that Clapper cited include cyberthreats, intellectual property thefts, economically generated civil unrest, international organized crime, energy security, drug trafficking and emerging diseases.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)