In 2006, successes in the war on terrorism and the arrests of many key al
Qaeda leaders and operatives have diminished the ability of the group
to attack the United States homeland. At the same time, the growing Sunni
extremist movement that al Qaeda successfully spearheaded has evolved
from being directly led by al Qaeda to a global jihadi movement that
is able to conduct attacks independently.
As a result, the United States homeland faces two very different threats
from international terrorism: the attack planning that continues to emanate
from core al Qaeda overseas and the threat posed by homegrown, self-radicalizing
groups and individuals—inspired, but not led by al Qaeda—who
are already living in the U.S. While they share a similar ideology, these
two groups pose vastly different threats due to their differences in intent
and attack capability.
The United States has made significant headway
in countering al Qaeda’s
ability to execute attacks worldwide, including the U.S. homeland, but
the group continues to pose the most serious international terrorism
threat we face.
Despite the successes this year in depleting al Qaeda’s senior ranks
and disrupting ongoing attack planning, the group has been able to rebuild
itself and remain viable—finding new staging grounds for attacks,
promoting from within, and using the skills and abilities of its seasoned
veterans to continue its worldwide attack planning.
We assess al Qaeda’s strategy for conducting an attack inside the
United States continues to include proven tactics and tradecraft with adaptations
designed to address its losses and our enhanced security measures.
- For example, we believe:
- Al Qaeda is still seeking to infiltrate operatives
into the U.S. from overseas who have no known nexus to terrorism
using both legal and possibly illegal
methods of entry.
- We also believe, if it can, al Qaeda will obtain
and use some form of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear
- Al Qaeda’s choice of targets and attack methods will most
likely continue to focus on economic targets, such as aviation,
sector, and mass transit; soft targets such as large public
gatherings; and symbolic
targets, such as monuments and government buildings.
al Qaeda made efforts to align itself with established regional
terrorist groups, such as the Salafist Group for Preaching
and Combat, or GSPC, that may expand the scope of the threat to the
In addition, al Qaeda is also finding it easy to attract individual
members of these groups who align closer to Bin Laden’s ideology
and crave a more global agenda. This strategy has been particularly
in recruiting individuals from Pakistani and Kashmiri militant groups
overseas, as was evident in the recently disrupted al Qaeda-related
airline plot out of the United Kingdom.
- In a recent and rare public statement by the director of the British
Security Service, Eliza Manningham-Buller outlined the terrorist threat
Kingdom is currently facing and cited some sobering statistics that
highlighted the continuing threat to the U.S. and its allies:
to the BSS director, the United Kingdom is tracking 1,600 individuals
who are part of at least 200 networks that are actively plotting
attacks against British targets, as well as Western targets overseas.
She added the United Kingdom is following at least 30 plots as of November
2006, many of which are linked to al Qaeda in Pakistan and using
British-born foot soldiers living in the United Kingdom in its attack
the stark differences in the history, the population, and the immigrant
assimilation in our two countries, it is difficult to directly compare
our terrorism threat to theirs. While in general, the number of subjects
we are monitoring is proportional to the number of subjects BSS is monitoring—based
on gross national population—we see relatively fewer active “plots” involving
physical attacks within the United States, less defined networks of extremists,
and less developed attack planning compared to those described by the BSS
It is also possible, however, that al Qaeda’s strategy for attacking
the U.S. homeland includes using the U.K. as a stepping stone for al Qaeda
operatives to enter the United States. We are working closely with our
partners in the United Kingdom to counter this possible threat and to identify
any U.S. connections to the U.K. networks currently being monitored.
- As I stated earlier, we face two different threats from
international terrorism and when we look at the homegrown threat,
in contrast to the threat from
al Qaeda, it is critical to be aware of the differences in intent
and capability in order to understand and counter the threat. This year,
we disrupted several unsophisticated, small-scale attack plans
reflect the broader problem homegrown extremists pose:
- Last year, we
disrupted a homegrown Sunni Islamic extremist group in California known
as the JIS, a.k.a. “Assembly of Authentic Islam,” operating
primarily in state prisons, without apparent connections or direction
from outside the United States and no identifiable foreign nexus.
the JIS committed armed robberies in Los Angeles with the goal
of financing terrorist attacks against the enemies of Islam, including
the U.S. government
and supporters of Israel.
- This past summer, we arrested Narseal Batiste, the leader of a
group with intentions to wage jihad against the United States
and that was
to create its own army and government. Batiste also recognized
his resource limitations and sought to obtain material support
or take direction from
al Qaeda. The group was composed mostly of U.S. persons, many
of them born in the United States, and their intentions were to attack
- Also in 2006, the FBI, along with other federal
agencies and foreign partners, dismantled a global network
of extremists operating
on the Internet
and independently of any known terrorist organization. The
leaders of this group, who were from Georgia, had long-term goals of
of extremists in preparation for conducting attacks, possibly
inside the U.S.
The diversity of homegrown extremists and the direct knowledge
they have of the United States makes the threat they pose potentially
The radicalization of U.S. Muslim-converts is of particular concern.
While conversion to Islam, in itself, does not directly lead to radicalization,
converts appear to be more vulnerable and likely to be placed in situations
that put them in a position to be influenced by Islamic extremists.
In 2006, al Qaeda and its sympathizers continued their attempts
to make global jihad accessible to English-speaking Western Muslims by
large amounts of violent Islamic extremist propaganda in English via
media outlets and the Internet. Multiple Internet sites that are dedicated
to the spread of radical Islamic propaganda deftly exploited any and
all terrorist and political events, including the war in Iraq.
Al-Sahab, al Qaeda’s official media component, released 48 videos
last year, the most al Qaeda ever released in one year. This acceleration
in production is likely intended to mobilize the global jihad movement
and demonstrate that al Qaeda remains relevant and its main ideological
The Internet has facilitated the radicalization process, particularly
in the United States, by providing access to a broad and constant stream
of extremist Islamic propaganda, as well as experienced and possibly well-connected
operators via web forums and chat rooms.
The Threat from other Terrorist Groups
While al Qaeda, its affiliates,
and independent Islamic jihadist groups inspired by the global jihad
remain the primary threat to the U.S.
homeland, other groups, such as Iranian-supported Lebanese Hizballah,
due to their ongoing fundraising, recruitment, procurement, and capability
to launch terrorist attacks inside the U.S.
As seen in the summer 2006 conflict with Israel, Hizballah
has a well-trained guerilla force that is proficient in military tactics
and weaponry capable
of striking U.S. interests. To date, Hizballah has not conducted an
attack within the U.S. homeland. Rather, U.S. Hizballah associates and
primarily engage in a wide range of fundraising avenues in order to
provide support to Hizballah to include criminal activities such as money
credit card, immigration, food stamp, and bank fraud, as well as narcotics
Our efforts to stem the flow of material and monetary support to Hizballah
over the past few years has led to numerous federal indictments, including
material support to a terrorist organization and federal racketeering charges,
resulting in the arrest of suspected Hizballah supporters and approximately
$5 million in property seizure and court ordered restitution.
Iran continues to present a particular concern due to its continued role
as a state sponsor of terrorism, its development of a nuclear program,
and commitment to promoting an Iranian-inspired extreme version of Shia
Islam within the United States. Iran is known to support Iraqi Shia militia
groups and terrorist groups such as Hizballah and non-Shia Palestinian
Palestinian Terrorist Groups
Despite calls from al Qaeda’s Ayman
Zawahiri to Palestinian terrorist groups to don the mantle of the global
jihad, most Palestinian groups have
maintained their longstanding policy of focusing their attacks on Israel.
Additionally, the ongoing factional in-fighting between Hamas and Fatah
elements in the Palestinian territories has consumed the attention of most
of the Palestinian organizations. The primary focus of U.S.-based Palestinian
groups remains fundraising, propaganda for the Palestinian cause, and proselytizing.
- The FBI continues to make inroads into dismantling the U.S. financial
infrastructures of these Palestinian terrorist organizations:
- On April
14, 2006, Sami al-Arian pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to support
a designated foreign terrorist organization in violation
of International Emergency Economic Powers Act nd as part of the plea,
to material support of Palestine Islamic Jihad or PIJ.
The Threat Posed
by Domestic Terrorist Groups
While much of the national attention is focused
on the substantial threat posed by international terrorists to the homeland,
with an ongoing threat posed by domestic terrorists based and operating
strictly within the United States. Domestic terrorists, motivated
by a number of political or social issues, continue to use violence
activity to further their agendas.
Despite the fragmentation of white supremacist groups resulting from the
deaths or the arrests of prominent leaders, violence from this element
remains an ongoing threat to government targets, Jewish individuals and
establishments, and non-white ethnic groups.
The militia/sovereign citizen movement similarly continues to present
a threat to law enforcement and members of the judiciary. Members of these
groups will continue to intimidate and sometimes threaten judges, prosecutors,
and other officers of the court. Sporadic incidents resulting in direct
clashes with law enforcement are possible and will most likely involve
state and local law enforcement personnel, such as highway patrol officers
and sheriff’s deputies.
Some U.S.-based black separatist groups follow radical variants of Islam
and in some cases express solidarity with international terrorist groups.
These groups could utilize black separatists to collect intelligence on
U.S. targets or to identify radical elements within the African-American
community who could act as surrogates on their behalf.
Animal rights extremism and eco-terrorism continue to pose a threat. Extremists
within these movements generally operate in small, autonomous cells and
employ strict operational security tactics making detection and infiltration
difficult. These extremists utilize a variety of tactics, including arson,
vandalism, animal theft, and the use of explosive devices.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Acquisition and Use by Terrorist Groups
and domestic terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism continue to demonstrate
an interest in acquiring and using chemical, biological,
radiological, and nuclear weapons, or CBRN. CBRN weapons are advantageous
for terrorists to use to cause mass casualties, mass panic, economic
disruption, and summon U.S. government responses.
Few if any terrorist groups are likely to have the capability to produce
complex biological or chemical agents needed for a mass casualty attack,
but their capability will improve as they pursue enhancing their scientific
knowledge base by recruiting scientists as some groups are doing. Currently,
terrorist groups have access to simple chemical and biological agent recipes
passed on at training camps or through the Internet and anarchist cookbook
Although a nuclear terrorist attack is the least likely to occur due to
the required technical expertise and challenges associated with acquiring
weapons-usable material, the intent of terrorists to obtain this material
is a continuing concern. The ability of a terrorist group to build and
use a radiological dispersal device is well within the capability of extremists
who already understand explosives if they are able to acquire radiological
To counter this threat, the FBI established the WMD Directorate in July
2006 to consolidate the FBI’s WMD components. The Directorate integrates
and links all the necessary intelligence, scientific, and operational components
to detect and disrupt the acquisition of WMD capabilities and technologies
for use against the U.S. homeland by terrorists and other adversaries.
WMD Proliferation and other Foreign Intelligence Threats
The U.S. government
has identified 21 countries—of which Iran, North
Korea, and China are of greatest concern—with the capability to either
develop WMD systems or acquire export-controlled WMD and dual-use items
and sensitive technologies. The FBI has leveraged its statutory authority
in export matters with nexus for foreign counterintelligence activities
and enhanced interagency cooperation and coordination to address this threat
to U.S. national security.
From an operational perspective, FBI Headquarters, field agents, and their
counterparts at DHS and the Department of Commerce have successfully conducted
joint investigations that have led to arrests of individuals for violations
of U.S. export laws and have produced intelligence in support of national
intelligence collection requirements. The resulting intelligence has enabled
the intelligence community to better understand the threat to national
security from foreign government exploitation of international commerce
in foreign targeting of WMD and other sensitive U.S. technologies and information.
While preventing another terrorist act on U.S. soil is the FBI’s
primary mission, protecting the United States from espionage and foreign
intelligence operations is also of vital importance. Recent investigative
successes highlight the fact that foreign governments continue to target
the United States for sensitive and classified information and technology.
In 2006, the FBI arrested 20 individuals on espionage-related charges
and disrupted foreign intelligence operations through persona non grata
and other removal actions and by objecting to visas for intelligence officers
seeking entry into the United States.
Espionage arrests include that of a Cuban-American university professor
for acting as an agent of the Cuban government. Though the professor had
no direct access to classified U.S. information, one of his tasks was to
spot and assess American students who may pursue a career in the U.S. Government.
Similarly, the arrests of a U.S. defense contractor and his co-conspirators
for passing sensitive weapons technology to the People’s Republic
of China confirm that foreign states are using non-traditional actors and
methods to collect classified, sensitive, and commercially valuable proprietary
information and technology. Other FBI investigations revealed trusted insiders
compromising classified or sensitive information to a wide range of U.S.
In 2006, the FBI identified a core group of top country threats demonstrating
the intent, capability, and opportunity to target and collect information
and technology in the United States using both traditional and non-traditional
Within this core group, two countries’ targeting was both broad
and deep—aimed at the United States’ most sensitive technologies,
such as those related to WMD, as well as others deemed critical to the
U.S. national defense, and at the U.S. government itself, in an attempt
to penetrate organizations that set policy, collect intelligence, or protect
against foreign adversaries.
While not posing as broad a threat as these two countries, the remaining
top country threats engaged in activities inimical to U.S. interests, such
as attempts to penetrate the U.S. government or repeated efforts to collect
sensitive or critical technologies, to include WMD. Given the United States’ continuing
dominance in world affairs, there is every expectation that we will continue
to be targeted, by these and other countries. In response, the FBI must
continue to refine and improve its foreign counterintelligence program.
Since implementing its first National Counterintelligence Strategy in
2002, the FBI has improved its understanding of the threat. Through partnerships
with other government agencies and the private and academic sectors, the
FBI has not only corroborated long-standing assumptions concerning high-level
foreign intelligence activities in the United States, but has detected
far greater levels of activity than originally projected; stealing and
compromising of classified and non-classified technologies are occurring
at levels previously unknown. As a result, this year the FBI is updating
its National Counterintelligence Strategy to reflect more advanced objectives
and priorities. The focus of the 2007 Strategy will continue the shift
from investigating activities after the fact to preventing foreign intelligence
collectors from stealing our most sensitive and vital information and technologies
in the first place.
Cyber Security Threats
Finally, the FBI is concerned by cyber security
threats, which may come from a vast array of groups and individuals with
different skills, motives,
and targets. The nation’s security, economy, and emergency services
rely on the uninterrupted use of the Internet and telecommunications
infrastructure to ensure continuity of government and military operations,
financial services, transportation, and Supervisory Control and Data
Acquisition systems such as water, power and fuel refinement, storage,
Terrorists increasingly use the Internet to communicate, conduct operational
planning, propagandize, recruit, train, store information, and obtain logistical
and financial support. Foreign governments have the technical and financial
resources to support advanced network exploitation and to launch attacks
on the information infrastructure and physical infrastructure. Criminal
hackers can also pose a national security threat if recruited, knowingly
or unknowingly, by foreign intelligence or terrorist organizations. In
addition, cyber fraud activities pose a growing threat to our economy,
a fundamental underpinning of our national security.
Computer networks may be targeted for a variety of reasons. In addition
to the national security implications of stealing or altering military
or intelligence data, a cyber attack might be launched to facilitate or
amplify a physical attack, for example by disrupting critical emergency
response services or denying access to health records. Finally, it is worth
noting that computer networks—and our reliance upon them to enhance
our national security—also remain vulnerable to physical damage by
way of intentional attack or natural disaster.
Mr. Chairman, working closely with our partners in intelligence,
law enforcement, military, and diplomatic circles, the FBI’s primary
responsibility is to neutralize terrorist cells and operatives here in
the United States
and help dismantle terrorist networks worldwide. Although protecting
the United States from terrorist attacks is our first priority, we remain
committed to the defense of America against foreign intelligence threats
as well as the enforcement of federal criminal laws, all while respecting
and defending the Constitution.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to join my colleagues today
to provide an update on our efforts to combat all threats against this
nation. I look forward to working with this Committee as we continue these
crucial efforts. I am happy to take any questions you might have.
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