December 1st, 2013
09:20 AM ET
9 years ago

Terrorists are gaining ground, intelligence committee heads say

Washington (CNN) - The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees said Sunday that terrorists have gained ground in the past two years and that the United States is not any safer than it was at the outset of 2011.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, agreed that despite the death of Osama bin Laden and drone strikes aimed at decimating al Qaeda's leadership, President Barack Obama's administration has lost ground in the ongoing battle with global terrorism.

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"Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?" host Candy Crowley asked Feinstein on CNN's "State of the Union."

"I don't think so," the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman replied.

"I absolutely agree that we're not safer today," Rogers added.

Rogers warned that the Obama administration's successes against high-value targets have fostered a false sense of security.

"People think that, well, we've got this thing beat," Rogers said. "And that's just not the case."

In the wide-ranging joint interview with Crowley, Feinstein and Rogers detailed an international climate growing more hostile toward the United States.

Feinstein said increasingly fundamentalist Islamist groups are gaining power and winning the minds of the disenfranchised in the Middle East and Near Asia.

"I see more groups; more fundamentalist, more jihadist, more determined to kill to get to where they want to get," Feinstein said.

As evidence the U.S. is in greater danger, the California lawmaker cited a rise in fatalities from terrorist-related activities and increasingly specialized and dangerous technology available to terrorists. Feinstein specifically highlighted bombs as a growing threat to American security - and not the kind of improvised devices that plagued U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, or rudimentary explosives like the pressure-cooker bomb used by the Boston marathon bombers. She said terror groups had already tried, on four separate occasions, to send these newer, more deadly explosives into the United States.

"There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs," Feinstain said. "There are bombs that go through (metal-detecting) magnetometers."

Rogers said the evolving nature of the terror threat - both an increase in the number of al Qaeda affiliates globally and the group's shifting strategy - has produced an enemy that, even if it’s not outright winning, has disproven Obama's claim the group is "decimated."

"Al Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different," Rogers said.

Rogers said the terrorist network has changed its modus operandi. Rather than placing a premium on sophisticated, simultaneous large-scale terror attacks - like those of September 11, 2001, and embassy bombings throughout the 1990s - the new breed of al Qaeda is more decentralized, he said, something that will make it "exponentially" harder to stop the next attack from happening.

"They've now switched to this notion that smaller events are OK, so if you have more smaller events than bigger events, they think that might still lead to their objectives and their goals," Rogers said.

Rogers said the potency of the al Qaeda threat comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of the American intelligence apparatus working to root out the next terror events.

"The pressure on our intelligence services to get it right, to prevent an attack, are enormous," Rogers said.
Rogers said a wave of disclosures about U.S. intelligence collection - revelations prompted by leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden - has turned public opinion against agencies that are working to defend the United States.

"Our intelligence services are not the bad guys," Rogers said.

Rogers said the disclosures are not just a source of consternation among counterterrorism officials, but also a serious risk to national security. In describing the headaches posed by the drips from Snowden's spigot of classified documents detailing National Security Agency operations, Rogers said the revelations about the agency's methods of surveillance have already prompted three al Qaeda affiliates to change the way they communicate. With every disclosure, he said, it becomes more and more likely that a planned attack will slip through the intelligence web.

"I can't tell the thousands of man-hours they have spent trying to prepare people to understand fact from fiction, what is happening versus what is not happening," Rogers said.

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. HenryMiller

    "President Barack Obama's administration has lost ground in the ongoing battle with global terrorism."

    Well, Obama is a screw-up on every measurable axis. What else would you expect?

    December 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  2. Matt

    Fn Edward Snowden should have kept his tree hugging mouth shut. The next attack is partially his fault. I dont care if nsa listens to my phonecalls or know what sites I visit, as long as I'm safe and my family is too.

    December 1, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  3. Brett

    The intelligence community should NEVER be monitoring the communications of american citizens without a warrant. Period.

    The minute you give up what your father's father's fathers worked so hard to attain, is the minute you abandon this nation and all she stands for. People who advocate that sort of thing do more damage to her than Osama ever could.

    December 1, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  4. Parker

    Great news! Now we can start another war against ..... Yes, against whom? Terrorists are winning. Man walked with dinosaurs. Trickle down economics works. The Republicans are vindicated! Yes, the SKY IS FALLING!!!!

    December 1, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  5. Neutral Observer

    Well let's see, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran,....hmmm all are now theocracies with religious nuts calling the shots. The last 5 years have been catastrophic for our interests in the middle east.

    December 1, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. don in albuquerque

    And how is does your life stack up Mr Miller? Sacrificed anything of late?

    December 1, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. Natalie Soares

    Yeah if we're not safer than we were before then what was the point in doing the deal with Iran again? Thought they were the advocates.

    December 1, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. Djig

    Thats the problem, yall so worried about the "Boston Bombers", what if Dzhokhar's verdict is "Not Guilty"? There are so.many real actual terrorists and people so worried about a kid that more than likely had nothing to do with the bombings...

    December 1, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. Mass Independent

    Matt, who is going to keep you safe from the Police State. NSA and British spies want to eliminate ALL PRIVACY world wide.

    Have you studied history? Any idea of what total surveillance states do? Read about East Germany, North Korea, etc. Well, now the USA. Next thing you know, the government will force you to spy on your neighbors and relatives. How many of them are terrorists Matt? Doubt any of them are. Think about it (if you have the capacity).

    December 1, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. rs

    So, what is the GOP proposing? Perpetual war? They resist the use of diplomacy, and seek to undermine diplomatic efforts with easily disproven lies. Meanwhile, they seek to end the use of drones and completely downplay the killing of Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile the GOP fails to pass jobs bill, immigration reform, or try to take the economy hostage to deny healthcare insurance to Americans.
    Once again, GOP- you bid against America.

    December 1, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  11. rs

    "President Barack Obama's administration has lost ground in the ongoing battle with global terrorism."

    Well, Obama is a screw-up on every measurable axis. What else would you expect?
    Your delusion is strong:
    1. More women are now employed than before the Bush crash of '08
    2. the stock market is 100% higher than in Oct. 'o8
    3. Housing values are up
    4. Inflation is virtually hill
    5. The war in Iraq is done
    6.The war in Afghanistan ends next year
    7. Bin Laden is dead
    8. American is poised to get 35 million Americans health insurance that they BUY
    9. The administration's diplomacy has succeeded in Iran and other nations
    10. Unemployment is down
    11. Corporate profits have NEVER been higher.

    I could go on- clearly these are not radical accomplishments- sadly they are things the Right ought to embrace as success. Unfortunately, these accomplishments have come with no support from the Right at all, so individuals like you can carp endlessly about the government and the President with your lies and insanity. You and your kind undermine America and Americans.

    December 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Pastor Paul c.

    Americans listen and listen good, guys saw it coming but refused to act. You don't double check ur employees frm China intelligence who are fast creeping into all ur security networks.
    Obama is weak but what about others working in other departments? Wat is stopping frm doing their jobs properly.

    December 1, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. g

    the usa has taken out al Qaeda,s enemies .one country one leader at a time -saddam ,gaddaffi makes you wonder who paying their bills

    December 1, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. morrie

    Rogers will say anything if it's against the potus.

    December 1, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. rs

    The intelligence community should NEVER be monitoring the communications of american citizens without a warrant. Period.

    The minute you give up what your father's father's fathers worked so hard to attain, is the minute you abandon this nation and all she stands for. People who advocate that sort of thing do more damage to her than Osama ever could.
    Be sure to thank Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft for their USA PATRIOT Act.

    December 1, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  16. huh

    Time for more republican war mongering to defeat the boogeyman? Republicans only know destruction at home and abroad. Just look at the economy suffering under their 2005 bankruptcy law making student loans a lifetime debt so their banker friends would get richer while the country suffers!

    December 1, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  17. Matt

    @Mass independent, you make a good point but I doubt the NSA is sitting around listening to calls of my wife telling me to pickup milk on the way home. The media blows everything up. The reality is they are looking for terrorists and don't give a crap what I'm doing. How do you think the govt intercepted all those homeland terror plots? It wasn't by siting idle.

    December 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. Evergreen

    A reminder for every American to remain vigilant and for Congress to put more resources into protecting our ports, airports and borders. We should depend less on contractors when it comes to sensitive government work. And I hope Snowden is enjoying his new homeland.

    December 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. Farrok

    The real terrorists are the ones down on the other side of town playing the "knock out game" and sucking on a crack pipe.

    December 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. Matt


    December 1, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    The issue is, Islam intends to take over the entire planet..........and they will not stop until they do.

    December 1, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Name

    Terrorist taking out the play book and starting a DARE program of their own. Drone Abuse Recognition Education. Blame Bush hasn't flown since 08 for these people, but they do know their civil liberties are under attack without due process. Ask Eric Holder how he justifies being judge, jury, and executioner. OBAMA.

    December 1, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  23. bill

    i thought obummer said we had them on the run. oh never mind just another lie.

    December 1, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. don in albuquerque

    Two edged sword. What if we could have stopped Tim McVeigh from murdering 100's including babies in Oklahoma City. We should be paying way more attention to terrorist groups (home grown) operating under the guise of "militia". And I do not care how they do it. Or maybe we should just start "ratting" each other out to the gov't, and getting paid for it.

    December 1, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  25. Dennis Freeman

    So what do they suggest we do? Let's have some concrete recommendations and action instead of speeches and posturing. Oh wait a minute – action from Washington? Forget it.

    December 1, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
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