* Militants aim at broader range of potential targets
* Small-scale attacks are harder to detect
* Efforts to recruit Americans intensifying
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are having
a harder time detecting terrorism threats on American soil, top
U.S. officials said Wednesday, more than nine years after
the Sept. 11 attacks thrust the United States into a global
struggle with Islamist militancy.
The officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller, said at a Senate
hearing that al Qaeda and its affiliates are increasingly
plotting small-scale attacks on the United States that can be
carried out with greater frequency against a broader range of
Militants have also intensified efforts to recruit American
operatives in hopes of penetrating the U.S. security cordon.
"The threat is evolving in several ways that make it more
difficult for law enforcement or the intelligence community to
detect and disrupt plots," Napolitano said in written testimony
submitted to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
"The threats come from a broader array of groups and
regions. It comes from a wider variety of harder-to-detect
tactics. And it is aimed at harder-to-secure places than
before," she said.
The document was filed before a hearing at which Napolitano
was scheduled to appear alongside Mueller and National
Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter.
Mueller told lawmakers that a main concern now is from al
Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and
Iraq. The militant network's central leadership in Pakistan,
headed by Osama bin Laden, is now at its weakest point since
2001 due to ongoing U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism operations,
according to officials.
The Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington killed
about 3,000 people in 2001, prompting U.S. officials to fear
that al Qaeda was plotting other mass casualty events, possibly
including the detonation of a nuclear device.
But Napolitano said the failed May 1 car bombing in New
York's Times Square and the Dec. 25, 2009, attempt to bomb a
Detroit-bound airliner showed a shift toward attacks that
require less extensive planning and coordination.
Both attacks caught U.S. authorities off guard.
As a result, Napolitano warned that the United States faces
a growing threat from roadside bombs like those used against
American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as small arm
attacks of the kind used to devastating effect in the 2008
Mumbai rampage that killed 166 people in India.
The list of potential targets now includes hotels, sports
stadiums and other public areas as well as famous landmarks,
airliners, chemical plants and ports.
"Unlike large-scale, coordinated, catastrophic attacks,
executing smaller-scale attacks requires less planning and
fewer pre-operational steps. Accordingly, there are fewer
opportunities to detect such an attack before it occurs,"
The threat of home-grown terrorism has also taken on a
higher profile with the March indictment of Colleen LaRose, a
blond Pennsylvania woman known as "Jihad Jane" who is accused
of plotting over the Internet to kill a Swedish cartoonist for
depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a manner offensive to
About two dozen Americans have been arrested on terrorism
charges since 2009, according to Napolitano.
"While it is not clear if this represents an actual
increase in violent radicalization ... it is nonetheless
evident that over the past 12 months efforts by violent
extremist groups and movements to communicate with and recruit
individuals within the United States have intensified," she
said in her testimony.
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Anthony
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