The man in charge of all of America's intelligence gathering testified today before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. The following are excerpts from National Director of Intelligence James Clapper's prepared remarks as provided to ABC News.
On Iran: We Don't Know If They'll Go for The Bomb, 'Concerned' About Attack on U.S.
"We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. Iran nevertheless is expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, which can be used for either civil or weapons purposes."
"Iran's technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so. These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if it so chooses. We judge Iran would likely choose missile delivery as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon… Elite infighting has reached new levels, as the rift grows between Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad."
"The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials -- probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime. We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas. Iran's willingness to sponsor future attacks in the United States or against our interests abroad probably will be shaped by Tehran's evaluation of the costs it bears for the plot against the ambassador as well as Iranian leaders' perceptions of U.S. threats against the regime."
On Terrorism: Al Qaeda 'Core' Weakening, Affiliates and Homegrown Terror Greater Threats
"The next two to three years will be a critical transition phase for the terrorist threat facing the United States, particularly from al Qaeda and like-minded groups… During this transition, we expect leadership of the movement to become more decentralized, with 'core' al Qaeda -- the Pakistan-based group formerly led by Osama bin Laden -- diminishing in operational importance; regional al Qaeda's affiliates planning and attempting terrorist attacks; multiple voices providing inspiration for the movement; and more vigorous debate about local versus global agendas."
"We do not assess that al Qaeda's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, will change al Qaeda's strategic direction, but most al Qaeda members find Zawahiri's leadership style less compelling than bin Laden's image as a holy man and warrior and will not offer him the deference they gave bin Laden."
"We judge that al Qaeda's losses are so substantial and its operating environment so restricted that a new group of leaders, even if they could be found, would have difficulty integrating into the organization and compensating for mounting losses."
Despite this, the DNI's statement notes that al Qaeda regional affiliates "will remain committed to the group's ideology, and in terms of threats to U.S. interests will surpass the remnants of core al Qaeda in Pakistan."
"We judge al Qaeda operatives are balancing support for attacks in Pakistan with guidance to refocus the global jihad externally, against U.S. targets. Al Qaeda also will increasingly rely on ideological and operational alliances with Pakistani militant factions to accomplish its goals within Pakistan and to conduct transnational attacks. Pakistani military leaders have had limited success against al Qaeda operatives, other foreign fighters, and Pakistani militants who pose a threat to Islamabad."