The director of U.S. National Intelligence, Admiral Mike McConnell, says terrorism remains the preeminent threat to American security. But McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that other threats endanger not only America and Americans, but people in many other parts of the world. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports.
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell says that despite elimination of many senior leaders of the al Qaida terrorist organization, its core elements are resilient and continue to plot attacks against the United States and other targets.
"Indeed, al Qaida, along with other terrorist groups, continues to seek chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons or materials. Al Qaida also is forging stronger operational connections that radiate outward from their camps in Pakistan to affiliated groups and networks throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe."
Admiral McConnell says the second greatest threat to America and its allies are state and non-state actors that seek weapons of mass destruction. He singled out North Korea and Iran, highlighting other threats emanating from Tehran.
"Iran is of concern beyond the reasons of nuclear aspirations. The fall of the Taleban and Saddam, increased oil revenues, Hamas' electoral victory, and Hezbollah's perceived success in fighting against Israel all extend Iran's influence in the Middle East," said the intelligence director.
Admiral McConnell told the Senate panel that escalating demand for oil and gas has resulted in windfall profits for producer nations that are hostile to the United States, such as Iran and Venezuela. He added that Russia now sees itself as an energy superpower, a status with broad ramifications for neighboring states.
Also testifying at the Senate hearing was Lieutenant General Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He said Russian defense spending is third in the world, behind China and the United States.
"Russia is a leading arms exporter, with major sales of advanced weapons and military-related technology to China, India, Iran and Venezuela,” the general testified. “Russia and China continue to be the primary states of concern regarding developing military space and counter-space programs."
Armed Services Committee member Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia noted the need for greater collaboration among U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "In addition, we'll need more and better human intelligence capacity, improved language abilities and cultural awareness -- underline cultural awareness, how clearly that has come to the forefront in our struggle to understand the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Senator Warner also urged the intelligence chiefs to be candid with U.S. policy makers, however unpleasant or unpopular the truth may be.