This focus is the result of the damage that US forces have done to Al Qaeda in places like Pakistan, officials argue. US success in targeting insurgent operatives has in turn encouraged Al Qaeda to look for other ways to harm America – specifically, recruiting Americans to take part in terrorist attacks on their home soil, they say.
“They are now resorting to other ways to go after this country,” said CIA Director Leon Panetta. “That’s the nature of the kind of threats that we are now dealing with.” While these potential attacks are likely to be less sophisticated, he added, Americans who might take part in them are “tougher to find.”
Mr. Leiter of the National Counterterrorism Center warned that these Americans are also increasingly linking up with each other through internet forums like Facebook. The challenge, he added, is identifying these people while still protecting US civil liberties.
At the same time, the nation’s intelligence agencies are grappling mightily with cyberattacks, which are growing in frequency and in effectiveness. Mr. Clapper estimates that there are some 60,000 new malicious programs and viruses “identified each day.” The loss of intellectual property to cybercrime has cost businesses worldwide “approximately $1 trillion,” he added.