WASHINGTON, DC — The United States is facing a plethora of terror threats that are progressively more menacing than the dangers faced during the 9/11 time period, top U.S. national security officials told lawmakers.
They cited a “renewed terrorist interest” in weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and an overall “growing” radiological and nuclear menace as particular concerns.
Currently, the various U.S. agencies charged with homeland security, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI, are reportedly handling a historic number of terrorism cases.
These revelations came during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on worldwide terrorism threats gripping the United States.
High-ranking U.S. government officials, including DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Nicholas Rasmussen, and FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged that global jihadist groups represent the top threat facing Americans.
Nevertheless, they also highlighted the need to combat the menace posed by cyber adversaries and domestic terrorists, particularly ideologically-driven violent extremists such as racial supremacists and violent anarchists.
“There’s certainly other threats; from ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction programs in North Korea and Iran; to the continued undermining of American interests by nation-states, including Russia,” added Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House panel.
Both the DHS secretary and NCTC director sounded the alarm on the U.S. facing a more potent terrorist landscape now than during the September 11, 2011, attacks carried out by al-Qaeda with the support of the Afghan Taliban.
Secretary Duke testified:
The terror threat in our country equals, and in many ways exceeds, the period around 9/11. We are seeing a surge in terrorist activity because the fundamentals of terrorism have changed.
Our enemies are crowdsourcing their violence online and promoting a do-it-yourself approach that involves using any weapons their followers can get their hands on…I also want to make it clear that DHS is not standing on the sidelines as these threats proliferate, and we will not allow frequent terrorism to become the new normal.
On the latest anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which killed and wounded an estimated 9,000 Americans, Breitbart News noted that the terrorist groups behind the assault have grown stronger despite the ongoing U.S. military efforts to annihilate them that began in 2001.
Echoing Duke, NCTC Director Rasmussen told lawmakers that terrorist groups currently pose “less predictable” and more complex threats than during 9/11.
The head of NCTC, a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), declared in his written testimony:
The threat landscape is less predictable and, while the scale of the capabilities currently demonstrated by most of these violent extremist actors does not rise to the level that core al-Qa’ida had on 9/11, it is fair to say that we face more threats originating in more places and involving more individuals than we have at any time in the past 16 years.
Although Duke acknowledged that terrorists had shown a “renewed” interest in acquiring WMDs, she refused to elaborate further in a public setting.
“Our intelligence professionals have seen renewed terrorist interest in WMD and are aware of concerning developments on these issues, which can be discussed further in an appropriate setting,” the DHS chief wrote in her prepared remarks.
She stressed that DHS is taking steps to address the department’s “inadequate” and “fragmented” approach to protecting Americans against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
Citing “the growing threats and the need to enhance DHS’s ability to help respond,” Duke revealed that the department would “launch a new office of countering weapons of mass destruction next week to consolidate and elevate DHS’s efforts to guard against” the CBRN menace.
The DHS secretary warned that the terrorist menace facing the United States is intensifying as American troops continue to step up their pressure on groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and its so-called rival al-Qaeda (also spelled al-Qa’ida).
In her prepared remarks, Duke cautioned:
As our government takes the fight to groups such as ISIS and al-Qa’ida, we expect operatives to disperse and focus more heavily on external operations against the United States, our interests, and our allies. We are seeing an uptick in terrorist activity because the fundamentals of terrorism have evolved. This includes changes in terrorist operations, the profile of individual operatives, and the tactics they use.
With regard to operations, terrorist groups historically sought time and space to plot attacks. But now they have become highly networked online, allowing them to spread propaganda worldwide, recruit online, evade detection by plotting in virtual safe havens, and crowd-source attacks. The result is that our interagency partners and allies have tracked a record number of terrorism cases.
As the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) falls, al-Qaeda’s influence and strength is growing, according to several assessments.