US turns to domestic extremism as new counter terrorism focus

Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper

Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:48AM GMT

While insisting that al-Qaeda has been “shattered” as an anti-US threat, American officials are reportedly struggling to invent a new ‘counterterrorism’ policy, with domestic extremists mentioned as the new focus.

“The threat from al-Qaeda and the potential for a massive coordinated attack on the United States may be diminished, but the jihadist movement is more diffuse,” said Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper at a congressional hearing Thursday as quoted in a Los Angeles Times report on Monday.

“Lone wolves, domestic extremists and jihad-inspired affiliated groups are still determined to attack Western interests,” he reportedly added during a testimony at the House Intelligence Committee hearing.

Citing US military officials, the report says as a result of the assassination drone strikes and “other counter-terrorism operations” by the CIA spy agency, al-Qaeda “has been so eviscerated that US intelligence agencies no longer fully understand the organizational structure below its nominal leader, Ayman Zawahiri.”

Further underlining claims that all “top lieutenants” of Zawahiri have been killed by CIA operatives “almost as quickly as they are identified,” the report cites Obama administration officials as contending, however, that “smaller, far-flung and largely autonomous factions” of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Mali and Somalia “remain dangerous” and US forces cannot “relax their focus.

The report then claims that the US has “gutted” the shadowy al-Qaeda organization in Yemen through numerous assassination drone strikes in the impoverished country and the rise to power of a new US-installed dictator there that has allowed the Americans a free hand to operate across the nation.

It then quotes Rosa Brooks, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon, as saying, “To the best of our information, there is nobody out there with both the desire and the capabilities to cause any serious damage to the US in any way at this moment.”

Despite such claims about delivering huge blows to anti-US terror threats, however, the report further cites other former officials and expert as indicating that Washington has no intent to reduce its “counterterrorism” spending even amid the ongoing budget crisis facing the federal government.

“You give a bureaucracy 10 years of unfettered growth and no real hard questions, and you’re going to have an entire industry looking at al-Qaeda nodes as an existential threat,” said Shawn Brimley, former White House director for strategic planning on the National Security Council, who left the Obama administration in 2012.

Brimley further emphasized that top US officials “from the White House on down” clearly recognize that as Washington’s so-called ‘war on terror’ winds down, “we need to address the hard question of what does a sustainable counter-terrorism policy look like for the next phase.”

The daily then cites “former top CIA and FBI official,” Philip Mudd as contending that the US needs to retain the “intelligence machinery” that “finds, fixes and finishes” terrorist leaders “for the foreseeable future, even if only in rare cases.”