WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. is in greater danger of a terrorist attack than it was prior to September 11 and has less ability to prevent such aggression by Islamist radicals, key congressional intelligence leaders said Sunday.
“I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“The fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs. Trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there,” Feinstein said.
“I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist jihadist Islamic community. That is that the West is responsible for everything that goes wrong and that the only thing that’s going to solve this is Islamic sharia law and the concept of the caliphate,” Feinstein said.
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee agreed, and said terrorists are now focusing on smaller events, making it more difficult for the intelligence community to detect plots against American targets.
“The threat level has never been more diverse than it is today and that’s one of the bigger concerns that we have, and why we both would agree that the threat is higher today and we are probably less safe. The more efforts they try, the more perfect you have to be to stop something. That’s a huge challenge,” Rogers told CNN.
Citing the recent disclosures about the interworking of U.S. intelligence operations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Rogers said it has changed the way al-Qaida operates and communicates, making it even more difficult to detect an attack before it becomes operational.
“We’re fighting amongst ourselves in this country about the role of the intelligence community. That is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats. And so we’ve got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys,” Rogers said.
The bleak assessment comes as Congress debates whether to curtail the reach of the intelligence community’s ability to spy on Americans, as well as terrorist threats overseas.
The Snowden leaks revealed that the NS A has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, as well as the email content of messages going overseas.
The revelation prompted rare bipartisan consensus in Congress to limit NSA activities or to require regular reports to Congress on its activities.
Feinstein is pushing legislation to protect NSA practices but require more congressional reporting.