The Senate Intelligence Committee held annual hearings this week on the nation’s most significant security threats, during which the Director of National Intelligence, along with the Directors of the CIA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency, gave testimony as to the state of the overall threat environment facing the country. The full hearing transcript can be viewed here.
Of particular note were statements made by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, regarding the ongoing terrorist facing the homeland.
According to Clapper, the Al Qaeda terrorist organization poses a greater challenge today than ten years ago due to the network's franchises being much more globally dispersed, combined with increased knowledge of counter terrorism and surveillance methods gained, in part, from the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks.
"I have not experienced a time when we have been beset by more crises and threats around the globe."
Clapper pointed out that Syria has become a significant location for independent or al-Q aida aligned groups to recruit, train and equip a growing number of extremists to go back to their home countries and conduct terrorist acts. The U.S. intelligence community estimates that in excess of 7,000 foreign fighters have been attracted from some 50 countries. with approximately 1700 coming from Europe.
While the State Department has not provided estimates of how many Americans they believe have gone to fight with Syrian rebels, British defense consultant IHS Jane's puts the number at a few dozen.
Security analysts fear more of those militants will tire of the battle against Syrian President Assad, whose government shows no signs of collapsing, and will take their newly acquired skills back to Europe or the U.S., where even a small bomb in a shopping mall can grab much greater headlines than the now-routine reports of car bombs in Syrian cities.
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