The message regarding terrorism from the Obama administration over the past few years has been that al Qaeda is on the run, its core leadership has been "decimated," and that the face of the "war on terror" is changing for the better. In his recent speech on U.S. counterterrorism strategy, President Obama said, "Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States."
However, remarks on Thursday by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to the House Committee on the Judiciary paint a less optimistic picture [emphasis added]:
Overseas, the terrorist threat is similarly complex and ever-changing. We are seeing more groups and individuals engaged in terrorism, a wider array of terrorist targets, greater cooperation among terrorist groups, and continued evolution and adaptation in tactics and communication.
Al Qaeda and its affiliates, especially al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to represent a top terrorist threat to the nation. These groups have attempted several attacks on the United States, including the failed Christmas Day airline bombing in 2009 and the attempted bombing of U.S.-bound cargo planes in October of 2010.
In December 2011, Somali national Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame pled guilty to nine counts of providing material support to AQAP and al Shabaab. A Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation found that Warsarme conspired to teach terrorists how to make bombs, provided explosives weapons and training to al Shabaab, and arranged for al Shabaab leaders to obtain weapons from members of AQAP. Warsame faces up to life in prison.
Director Mueller also spoke of the "continuing threat from homegrown violent extremists" as seen in the Boston marathon bombing, and the "growing scope of the insider threat" posing risks to national security, illustrated by Chinese national Steve Liu, an employee of a New Jersey defense contractor sentenced in March to five years in prison for stealing designs on U.S. weapons systems.