The country’s top intelligence official testified on Thursday before Congress that the U.S. faces the highest terror threat level since 9/11.
Appearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated that ISIS has now eclipsed al Qaeda worldwide and that “unpredictable instability has become the new normal,” the Washington Beacon reported.
Clapper testified that seven countries now have collapsing governments and an additional 14 are in danger of failing, due to instability, which creates potential safe havens for terrorist groups to rise.
Syria is exhibit A in this global reality, according to the intelligence chief. “There are now more Sunni [Muslim] violent extremist groups, members of safe havens, than any time in history,” Clapper said, noting that the rate of foreign fighters now traveling to Syria and Iraq is “without precedent.”
“At least 38,200 foreign fighters, including 6,900 from Western countries, have made their way to Syria from about 120 different countries since the Syrian conflict began in 2012,” the Beacon reported.
— Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) February 26, 2016
“Returning foreign fighters [to Europe and elsewhere], with first-hand battlefield experience, poses a dangerous operational threat,” Clapper said, citing last year’s massive terrorist attack in Paris. He added that terrorists could be trained in Iraq and Syria and sent to commit attacks in the U.S. like the one carried out in San Bernardino in December, the Daily Caller reported.
The intelligence official also discussed the threat posed by Iran. “Iran continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terror and exert its influence in regional crises in the Mid-East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups,” Clapper said. “Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners worldwide.”
He added that the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still harbors and fosters hatred towards the United States. “Iran’s supreme leader continues to view the U.S. as a major threat and we assess his views will not change despite the implementation of the [nuclear] deal, the exchange of detainees, and the release of the 10 sailors,” Clapper said.
Another major threat to U.S. security is in the realm of cyber security, where Russia, China, Iran and North Korea hack and collect sensitive data from American networks.
“Targeting collection of the U.S. political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated,” he said. “Russia and China post the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale.”