The United States is targeting al-Qaida more aggressively because it has built up years of knowledge on the extremist group, the head of U.S. intelligence said Tuesday.
"What has really made all the nations safer has been the accumulation of knowledge about al-Qaida and its affiliate groups which enables us to be more aggressive in expanding that knowledge and stopping things before they happen," said Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.
Blair's remarks, as he released a report on America's intelligence priorities for the next four years, came the day after a surgical strike in Somalia killed top al-Qaida fugitive Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.
The U.S. military had another success last month when they killed Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in a drone attack, reportedly as he was getting a leg massage on the roof of his father-in-law's house.
Missile strikes in Pakistan in December and January also claimed the lives of Rashid Rauf, the alleged al-Qaida mastermind of a 2006 transatlantic jet bombing conspiracy, and Usama al-Kini, head of al-Qaida operations in Pakistan.
Blair stressed that it was years of good intelligence work that had put the United States in a position to take the fight to al-Qaida and its affiliates.
"I say we are more aggressive and the ability to be more aggressive is founded on the much larger and more sophisticated understanding of the adversary we have gained across various administrations in recent years."
He noted it was particularly important to make this point in relation to the question of "what did various interrogation techniques gather four or five years ago" under former president George W. Bush.
Attorney General Eric Holder last month week named a special investigator to determine whether a full criminal probe is needed into the actions of CIA interrogators of alleged terrorists.
The probe will cover CIA agents at overseas sites thought to have overstepped the limits laid out in Bush-era legal memoranda after the September 11, 2001 strikes on the United States.
President Barack Obama has ruled out actions against Central Intelligence Agency officials who followed Bush-era interrogation guidelines in good faith.
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