The United States is no safer today than it has been in recent years, the heads of the congressional intelligence committees said Sunday, pointing to the persistence of threats and the evolution of terrorist networks.
Asked during an interview on CNN whether the U.S. is safer “now than we were a year ago, two years ago,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, replied, “I don’t think so.”
Appearing with Feinstein on CNN, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who heads the House Intelligence Committee, seconded her assessment.
“I absolutely agree that we're not safer today for the same very reasons,” he said. “So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it's getting more difficult because we see the al Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different, more affiliates than we've ever had before, meaning more groups that operated independently of al Qaeda have now joined al Qaeda around the world, all of them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against Western targets all around the world.”
And because those groups have refocused their efforts on “smaller events” rather than larger plots, Rogers said, it becomes “exponentially harder” for American intelligence services to stop them in their tracks.
Both Rogers and Feinstein have been fierce defenders of the
intelligence community, which has been singed by controversy since NSA leaker
Edward Snowden’s began his rolling disclosure of the government’s widespread
surveillance practices earlier this year.
On Sunday, both lawmakers reiterated their defense of the intelligence community, and Rogers criticized Snowden’s disclosures as a particularly harmful blow to intelligence-gathering efforts.
“You think about what's happened with recent disclosures,” he said. “Now three al Qaeda affiliate groups have changed the way they communicate – (meaning) it's less likely that we're going to be able to detect something prior to an event that goes operational.”
“And so we're fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community that is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats,” Rogers continued. “We've got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys. The bad guys – the al Qaeda affiliates, Russian intelligence services, Chinese intelligence services, the Quds force that operates terrorism events all around the world – those are the folks we need to focus our attention and our energy on in order to keep America safe.”