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NCTC Head: Al-Qaeda Plotting More Frequent, Small-Scale Attacks

Michael Leiter, NCTC
Michael Leiter, NCTC

Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter yesterday submitted an official report to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee,  reporting that al-Qaeda is likely plotting more frequent smaller-scale attacks in the United States. The report also mentioned the increased threat of homegrown terrorism.

The report concludes that the terrorist network is determined to rack up “victories” – by attempting to inspire sympathizers in the United States to engage in so-called homegrown attacks, as well as setting off attacks in Europe.

The report sought to sum up the nature of the terrorist threat during the past year, coming shortly after the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In one of its starker findings, it discloses that during the past year, the United States handled the “most significant developments in the terrorist threat to the homeland since 9/11.”

The list of attacks cited by the report is prolific: The plot to bomb New York City’s subway system that was foiled last fall, the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing over Detroit, and the thwarted Times Square bombing. The range and pace of attacks in the past year also suggest “the threat against the West has become more complex and underscores the challenges of identifying and countering a more diverse array of homeland plotting.”

And all of this despite the fact that al-Qaeda in Pakistan (where many of the threats from last year originated) is “at one of its weakest points organizationally,” according to Leiter’s report.

The centrality of Pakistan to disrupting al-Qaeda is also noted, drawing attention to the many Pakistan-based extremist groups allied with al-Qaeda, including the Haqqani network, which was responsible for a 2008 Kabul hotel bombing.

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