WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda is on the defensive but remains a significant and present danger to Americans, according to President Obama’s pick to lead the nation’s top counterterrorism body.
“Al Qaeda in many ways is weakened,’’ thanks to a decade of US counterterrorism efforts, said Matthew Olsen, speaking yesterday to a Senate panel weighing his confirmation as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “We’ve made substantial progress,’’ but the US must redouble its efforts to capitalize on Osama bin Laden’s demise in the May 2 Navy SEAL raid, Olsen said.
Olsen said the threat has spread and diversified beyond the senior Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, to diffuse groups. The State Department said in a global travel warning yesterday that Al Qaeda and other groups are planning terrorist attacks against US interests in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It warned that Americans should remain vigilant in case of attacks, in the form of suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.
If confirmed, Olsen will take over as one of the White House’s top terrorism advisers as the United States marks the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The counterterrorism center was formed following the 2001 attacks as a way to share and streamline intelligence-gathering among the CIA, FBI, and other agencies.