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Entries in James Clapper (5)

Wednesday
Mar132013

US Intelligence Chief Warns of Desperation Moves by Syria

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. director of national intelligence warned on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to use chemical weapons in a last-ditch effort to hold onto power.

James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that "the opposition is gaining in strength; it is gaining territory.  At the same time, the regime is experiencing shortages in manpower and logistics."

Clapper's statements underscore what international observers have been saying for some time that the longer the conflict lasts, the greater the chances al-Assad won't last.

However, the Syrian president could presumably strike back at opposition forces with biological and chemical weapons, a move the Obama administration finds untenable although the White House hasn't revealed what the U.S. response would be if that happens.

Adding to the confusion of the two-year conflict that has cost well over 70,000 lives is the rise of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusrah affiliate in Syria, which is mixed in with pro-democratic forces with decidedly different goals.

Clapper says that al-Nusrah has been able to ingratiate itself with ordinary Syrians because of its talent for providing essential services as people cope with a deepening humanitarian disaster.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb162012

Intelligence Chief Concerned About Al Qaeda in Syria Conflict

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress Thursday that al Qaeda and Sunni extremists were seeking to gain influence in Syria, possibly infiltrating some of the fragmented opposition groups engaged in fighting there.

“Another disturbing phenomenon that we’ve seen recently, apparently, is the presence of extremists who have infiltrated the  opposition groups,” Clapper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The two bombings in Damascus in December…and then the two additional bombings in Aleppo, both of which were targeted against security and intelligence buildings…had all the earmarks of an al Qaeda-like attack.  So we believe that al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria,” Clapper said.

“The state of the opposition, which is quite fragmented, it’s very localized -- the Syrian National Council really doesn’t…command and control these oppositionist groups,” Clapper said.

Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that U.S. intelligence has not yet determined if foreign al Qaeda-linked fighters have been coming into Syria to join the fight.

“What we haven’t seen so  far, and what we have not assessed yet is, whether there would be what I would call a clarion call to outsiders coming in to augment,” Burgess said. “We haven’t seen much of that up to this time.  So basically, the team that’s on the ground is playing with what it has.”

Following the hearing, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was asked what al Qaeda’s presence might mean for U.S. interests in Syria.  Panetta said he was concerned, but that more information was needed.

“It means that I think we have to continue to work with the Arab League and determine what steps should be taken to try to deal with the situation in Syria,” he said. “It does raise concerns for us that al Qaeda is trying to assert a presence there. And that means that, you know, frankly, our concerns, which were large to begin with because of the situation, the deteriorating situation in Syria, that the situation there has become that much more serious as a result of that.”

Asked if the U.S. can support a Syrian opposition that includes al Qaeda, Panetta said, “I think a lot remains to be seen as to  exactly what their role is before we come to that conclusion.  I think, you know, just the fact that they’re present concerns us.  As to what their role is and how extensive their role is, I think that still remains to be seen.”

Clapper told the committee that although core al Qaeda has suffered heavy losses in the past year, officials remain very concerned about the reach of the regional groups.

Towards the end of the hearing, Clapper added that he was concerned that despite key ideological differences between Sunni and Shia Islam, Iran could reach out to al Qaeda to use it as a proxy force.

Clapper called the relationship between elements in Iran and al Qaeda a “shotgun marriage,” given that Iran has harbored some senior al Qaeda leaders under the guise of “house arrest.”

Clapper cited al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as the greatest al Qaeda threat, telling the committee, “AQAP…we view as the primary threat to the homeland because of their planning and intent to attack either in Europe or homeland of the United States.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

US Intel Head James Clapper on Greatest Threats in 2012

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The man in charge of all of America's intelligence gathering testified Tuesday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. The following are excerpts from National Director of Intelligence James Clapper's prepared remarks as provided to ABC News.

On Iran: We Don't Know If They'll Go for The Bomb, 'Concerned' About Attack on U.S.


"We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. Iran nevertheless is expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, which can be used for either civil or weapons purposes."

"Iran's technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so. These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if it so chooses. We judge Iran would likely choose missile delivery as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon … Elite infighting has reached new levels, as the rift grows between Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad."

"The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials -- probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime. We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas. Iran's willingness to sponsor future attacks in the United States or against our interests abroad probably will be shaped by Tehran's evaluation of the costs it bears for the plot against the ambassador as well as Iranian leaders' perceptions of U.S. threats against the regime."

On Terrorism: Al Qaeda 'Core' Weakening, Affiliates and Homegrown Terror Greater Threats

"The next two to three years will be a critical transition phase for the terrorist threat facing the United States, particularly from al Qaeda and like-minded groups … During this transition, we expect leadership of the movement to become more decentralized, with 'core' al Qaeda -- the Pakistan-based group formerly led by Osama bin Laden -- diminishing in operational importance; regional al Qaeda's affiliates planning and attempting terrorist attacks; multiple voices providing inspiration for the movement; and more vigorous debate about local versus global agendas."

"We do not assess that al Qaeda's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, will change al Qaeda's strategic direction, but most al Qaeda members find Zawahiri's leadership style less compelling than bin Laden's image as a holy man and warrior and will not offer him the deference they gave bin Laden."

"We judge that al Qaeda's losses are so substantial and its operating environment so restricted that a new group of leaders, even if they could be found, would have difficulty integrating into the organization and compensating for mounting losses."

Despite this, the DNI's statement notes that al Qaeda regional affiliates "will remain committed to the group's ideology, and in terms of threats to U.S. interests will surpass the remnants of core al Qaeda in Pakistan."

"We judge al Qaeda operatives are balancing support for attacks in Pakistan with guidance to refocus the global jihad externally, against U.S. targets. Al Qaeda also will increasingly rely on ideological and operational alliances with Pakistani militant factions to accomplish its goals within Pakistan and to conduct transnational attacks. Pakistani military leaders have had limited success against al Qaeda operatives, other foreign fighters, and Pakistani militants who pose a threat to Islamabad."

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Although high-profile al Qaeda cleric and recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed, the intelligence chief notes in his testimony that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group to which Awlaki belonged, remains dangerous.

"We judge AQAP remains the node most likely to attempt transnational attacks. [Awlaki's] death probably reduces, at least temporarily, AQAP's ability to plan transnational attacks, but many of those responsible for implementing plots, including bomb makers, financiers, and facilitators, remain and could advance plots."

Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)

"We assess that AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) will remain focused on overthrowing the Shia-led government in Baghdad in favor of a Sunni-led Islamic caliphate. It probably will attempt attacks primarily on local Iraqi targets, including government institutions, Iraqi Security Forces personnel, Shia civilians, and recalcitrant Sunnis, such as members of the Sons of Iraq, and will seek to rebuild support among the Sunni population. ... The Iraqi Government is positioned to keep violence near current levels through 2012, although periodic spikes are likely. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are capable of planning and executing security operations, and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have demonstrated they are capable of targeting remaining terrorists and insurgents."

Al Shabaab, Somalia

Clapper said the main issue concerning the al Qaeda-linked terror group al Shabaab in east Africa is with American-born fighters who have joined the group.

"Members of the group -- particularly a foreign fighter cadre that includes U.S. passport holders -- may also have aspirations to attack inside the United States. However, we lack insight into concrete operational plans outside the Horn of Africa."

Homegrown Threat

Clapper said that homegrown extremists may move to attack in the U.S. if America or the West engages in war in another Muslim nation. In his testimony Clapper notes that extremists may learn from past plots and averted attacks and disruptions.

On Afghanistan: Taliban Still Has 'Safe Haven' in Pakistan

Discussing the Taliban the intelligence chief said "its losses have come mainly in areas where ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) surge forces are concentrated. It remains resilient and capable of challenging U.S. and international goals and Taliban senior leaders continue to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan, which enables them to provide strategic direction to the insurgency and not fear for their safety. We assess al Qaeda's impact on the Afghanistan insurgency is limited."

"That said, al Qaeda is committed to the Afghan jihad, and the propaganda gains from participating in insurgent attacks outweigh their limited battlefield impact," he said. "In terms of security, we judge that the Afghan police and Army will continue to depend on ISAF support."

Clapper also notes that Afghans earned $1.8 billion from the drug trade last year.

On North Korea: Too Early to Judge New Leader, Two Nuclear Weapon Tests


"North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat to the security environment in East Asia. Its export of ballistic missiles and associated materials to several countries, including Iran and Syria, and its assistance to Syria -- now ended -- illustrate the reach of the North's proliferation activities. We remain alert to the possibility that North Korea might again export nuclear technology."

"Kim Jong Un became North Korea's leader following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, on 17 December 2011. Although it is still early to assess the extent of his authority, senior regime leaders will probably remain cohesive at least in the near term to prevent instability and protect their interests."

Clapper said that the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea has tested two nuclear devices.

On the Arab Spring: Turmoil Will 'Challenge' U.S. Influence, Terrorists Could Exploit Unrest

"The Arab world is in a period of turmoil and change that will challenge the ability of the United States to influence events in the Middle East. This turmoil is driven by forces that will shape Arab politics for years, including a large youth population; economic grievances associated with persistent unemployment, inequality, and corruption; increased popular participation and renewed hope in effecting political change; and a greater ability by opposition groups to mobilize nonviolent resistance on a large scale."

"Meanwhile, the forces propelling change are confronting ruling elites; sectarian, ethnic, and tribal divisions; lack of experience with democracy; dependence on natural resource wealth; and regional power rivalries …This new regional environment poses challenges for U.S. strategic partnerships in the Arab world. However, we judge that Arab leaders will continue to cooperate with the United States on regional security to help check Iran's regional ambitions, and some will seek economic assistance."

"The unrest potentially provides terrorists inspired by the global jihadist movement more operating space, as security services focus more on internal security and, in some cases, undergo transformations in make-up and orientation. Ongoing unrest most likely would exacerbate public frustration, erosion of state power, and economic woes -- conditions that al Qaeda would work to exploit. The ongoing turmoil probably will cause at least a temporary setback to CT (counter-terrorism) efforts and might prove a longer-term impediment, if successor governments view violent Sunni extremism as a less immediate threat than did previous regimes."

On the Cyber Threat to the U.S.: Governments Can't Keep Up with Technology


In his testimony, Clapper notes that cyber threats are likely to increase in the coming years.

"We currently face a cyber environment where emerging technologies are developed and implemented faster than governments can keep pace, as illustrated by the failed efforts at censoring social media during the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Hacker groups, such as Anonymous and Lulz Security (LulzSec), have conducted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and website defacements against government and corporate interests they oppose. The well publicized intrusions into NASDAQ and International Monetary Fund (IMF) networks underscore the vulnerability of key sectors of the U.S. and global economy."

The intelligence chief also notes that computer-espionage is becoming a greater concern with foreign services targeting classified networks that may not be detected.

"We assess that many intrusions into U.S. networks are not being detected. Although most activity detected to date has been targeted against unclassified networks connected to the Internet, foreign cyber actors have also begun targeting classified networks."

On Drinking Water Resources: Shortages, Floods Will Hurt U.S. National Security

During the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national security interests.

Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.

Now and for the foreseeable future, water shortages and pollution probably will negatively affect the economic performance of important U.S. trading partners.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar112011

National Intelligence Director Says Gadhafi Might Prevail

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the nation's spy agencies warned U.S. lawmakers Thursday that Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi is destined to win his battle over anti-opposition forces if the international community stands pat.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Clapper, Director of of National Intelligence, said Gadhafi has the firepower to defeat the rebels and has consolidated his position after appearing to be on the ropes earlier this week.

Clapper told committee members, "We believe that Gadhafi is in this for the long haul.  Right now, he seems to have staying power unless some other dynamic changes at this time."

Some lawmakers were outraged by the intelligence director's candid assessment of the situations.  South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called on President Obama to fire Clapper, whose comments, he charged, "will make the situation more difficult for those opposing Gadhafi."

Clapper's gloomy forecast came as Gadhafi loyalists chased rebels out of the oil-rich port Ras Lanuf by bombarding the city with bombs, rockets and tank shells.

One Libyan man alleged that people are being kidnapped from Ras Lanuf and brought to Tripoli, where they are being tortured by Gadhafi's soldiers to extract information.

Pro-government forces are also determined to retake the rebel-held port of Misurata, located between Tripoli and Sitre, Gadhafi's hometown.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

National Intelligence Director's Office 'Clarifies' Remarks On Muslim Brotherhood

Photo Courtesy - DNI dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- The director of the Office of National Intelligence, James Clapper,  told a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday that the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood -- which seeks Egypt to become an Islamic state ruled by sharia law -- is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”

Jamie Smith, director of the office of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, later said in a statement to ABC News, “To clarify Director Clapper’s point -- in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation -- he is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.”

How much the Muslim Brotherhood has eschewed violence and decried al Qaeda is subject to debate. Critics of the group point to its ties with Hamas, a terrorist organization according to the U.S. State Department, for instance.

A Council on Foreign Relations background on the Muslim Brotherhood recently stated that “like other mass social movements, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is hardly a monolith; it comprises hardliners, reformers, and centrists, notes terrorism expert Lydia Khalil.  And some hardline leaders have voiced support for al Qaeda or use of violent jihad. For instance, as recently as 2006, Khalil points out, a member of Brotherhood elected to parliament, Ragib Hilal Hamida, voiced support for terrorism in the face of Western occupation. Instances like these raise questions over the group's commitment to nonviolence.

In December, Clapper raised eyebrows when he couldn’t answer a question from ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer about the arrests of 12 suspected terrorists in London hours before.

After initially claiming Sawyer’s question was too “ambiguous,” the Obama administration acknowledged that the retired Air Force lieutenant general had not been briefed about the arrests at the time of the interview.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐







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