Rep. King: Al Qaeda a greater threat now than before 9/11

Oct 16, 2012 Issues: Counterterrorism

The Washington Times - By David Sherfinski

U.S. Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and Chairman of the House's Homeland Security Committee, said Tuesday that al Qaeda is a greater threat now than it was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"That is the consensus of most intelligence experts," he said on CNN's "Starting Point." "What they've done is they are now more under the radar screen, they're more spread out, and they're harder to define. It was great killing … [Osama] bin Laden, I give President Obama credit for that, for bin Laden being killed, but having said that, he was one element, because al Qaeda [had] shifted. And it [had] shifted its emphasis from being a centralized force to being a diversified, diverse force, which is harder to track down. They're under the radar screen in many cases.

"They're a greater threat than they were back on September 11, because of the fact that they are much more spread out, the fact that there is active recruiting going on, people under the radar screen, and if you talk to intelligence experts, most will agree with that," Mr. King continued. "That on September 11 and the immediate years afterwards we knew who they were, we know we had a generalized idea of how to get them, and we were getting them one by one. And the culmination was when President Obama got bin Laden in May of 2011 … but the fact is, it has now spread out into many different groups, and that is why it is considered by most intelligence experts to be more dangerous now than it was then, and that's the story the president is not telling."

Mr. King said that the Obama administration's evolving story over the recent events in Libya has unfolded because immediately labeling the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi an act of terrorism would undercut the administration's message that al Qaeda, a terrorist group, has been decimated.

While traveling in Peru, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she is taking "full responsibility" for the lack of security at the consulate before the attack on the anniversary of 9/11 that led to the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.