U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. national security was challenged by the "multiplicity and interconnectedness" of potential threats that didn't exist during the Cold War.
He singled out al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen's al-Qaida branch, as a key threat to U.S. national security. He said that while AQAP was directing its energy on Yemen and Saudi Arabia, it's "increasingly devoted" to inspiring attacks on the United States.
"We also see disturbing instances of self-radicalization among our own citizens," he said in his prepared remarks.
AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki said he was in contact with the alleged triggerman in a shooting rampage in 2009 in Fort Hood, Texas, before the assault. AQAP was also linked to a failed plot to down a U.S. passenger plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 and several bombing attempts targeting international freight carriers last year.
American extremists, said Clapper, will likely be a small part of the global terrorism community but will play a "disproportionately large role" in the threat to the United States.