U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the terrorist threat against the United States is evolving and, in some ways, may be at its most heightened state since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Napolitano told the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday that al-Qaida still poses a threat to the U.S. despite its diminished capabilities.
She said the U.S. also faces threats from a number of al-Qaida associated groups, which have shown an increased emphasis on recruiting Americans and other Westerners to carry out attacks.
The director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Mike Leiter, said he considers the Yemen-based offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the most significant risk to the United States. He said radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the group's leaders, is using the Internet to talk directly to Americans.
The U.S. Army psychologist charged in the deadly 2009 shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas (Major Nidal Malik Hasan ) had been in e-mail contact with the U.S.-born al-Awlaki.
Intelligence officials have said al-Awlaki recruited and trained Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Nigerian man charged with attempting to blow up an airliner flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
Napolitano said her department is working to provide state and local law enforcement with the information and resources they need to combat the threat of violent extremism within their own communities.