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U.S. Intelligence Chief Says Al-Qaeda No Longer Poses Major Threat


U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in February.
The United States national intelligence director, James Clapper, has testified to Congress that Al-Qaeda no longer poses a major threat.

Clapper said in an annual assessment presented to lawmakers that the core of Al-Qaeda had been severely weakened and the terrorist group was unlikely to carry out "complex, large-scale attacks in the West."

Addressing the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clapper said that despite being weakened, Al-Qaeda had not abandoned its war against the United States, and its affiliates, particularly in Yemen, are plotting to attack the U.S. and its allies.

Clapper said cyberattacks and cyberespionage had replaced terrorism as the top threats to the United States.

"Increasingly, state and nonstate actors are gaining and using cyberexpertise," Clapper said. "They apply cybertechniques and capabilities to achieve strategic objectives by gathering sensitive information from public and private-sector entities, controlling the content and flow of information and challenging perceived adversaries in cyberspace. These capabilities put all sectors of our country at risk, from government and private networks to critical infrastructure."

Clapper's 34-page paper ran through a wide variety of threats covered by U.S. intelligence agencies, including the danger posed by North Korea.

"[North Korea's] rhetoric, while it is propaganda-laced, is also an indicator of their attitude and perhaps their intent, so for my part I am very concerned about what they might do, and they certainly, if they so chose, could initiate provocative action against [South Korea]," Clapper said.

On Iran, Clapper said while Tehran was improving its expertise in uranium enrichment and ballistic missiles, he did not believe Iran's leadership had yet decided to build a nuclear weapon.

"These technical advancements [in Iran] strengthen our assessment that Tehran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons," Clapper said. "This makes the central issue its political will to do so. Such a decision will reside with the supreme leader, and at this point we don't know if he will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP