Jim Kouri
Congress grills homeland security, intelligence officials
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By Jim Kouri
February 11, 2011

In an effort to gain insight on the strength and volatility of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda, the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee grilled members of President Barack Obama's so-called national security team on Wednesday.

The numerous attacks against al Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist organizations — including the killing or capturing of top commanders — for more than a decade may have taken their toll on the terrorists, but the organization continues to be a serious threat to the United States, a top administration official told the panel of lawmakers yesterday.

"In addition to the core al-Qaeda group, which still represents a threat to the United States, despite its diminished capabilities, we now face threats from a number of al-Qaeda associates that share its violent extremist ideology," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

While not mentioning the names of these groups, intelligence and law enforcement officials are familiar with groups such as Al Shabaab and Abu Sayyaf, who are aligned with al-Qaeda, sources told the Law Enforcement Examiner today.

The hearing — titled, "Homeland Threat Landscape" — was convened by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Napolitano told the congressmen that the groups are hard at work attempting to recruit scores of Americans for their terrorist activities in the U.S. or overseas.

"We are seeing an increased emphasis on recruiting Americans and Westerners to carry out attacks. These groups are trying to recruit people to carry out attacks. They have connections to the West, but who do not have strong ties to terrorist groups that could possibly tip off the intelligence community," said Napolitano, who has been underfire by GOP lawmakers for her mistakes and misstatements.

"They are also encouraging individuals in the West to carry out their own small-scale attacks, which require less of the coordination and planning that could raise red flags and lead to an attack disruption. This means that the threat has evolved in such a way that we have to add to our traditional counterterrorism strategies, which, in the past, have looked at the attack as coming from abroad," Napolitano stated.

Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the lawmakers that there remains certain ideological inspiration from al-Qaeda's senior leadership but less and less operational control. "I think that's in large part due to the offensive pressure that we're applying to al-Qaeda in Pakistan," Leiter said.

"I actually consider al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland," he said in response to questioning by Rep. King.

The congressman noted that withing last couple of years there have been more than 125 suspects indicted for terrorist-related activity, including 50 U.S. citizens. These suspects include Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, Fort Hood terrorist Army Maj Nidal Hasan, the Little Rock recruiting center shooter, the New York City subway bomber and Mumbai plotter David Headley, besides many other cases around the country.

Just yesterday, Daniel Patrick Boyd of North Carolina pled guilty to terrorism charges and is expected to be sentenced to life imprisonment

Noting that homegrown terrorists or "lone wolves" are growing threats, King said they cannot be ignored. "This shift, as far as I'm concerned, is a game changer that presents a serious challenge to law enforcement and the intelligence community," he said during the congressional hearings.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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