(WASHINGTON) — Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, broadly addressed counterterrorism issues speaking before the American Bar Association’s standing Committee on Law and National Security Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Olsen used his speech to push for renewal of sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which will expire at the end of the year. Recently Olsen and FBI Director Robert Mueller have been saying the impact of not renewing the FISA amendments would leave the U.S. defenseless in the counterterrorism realm by not being able to intercept certain overseas communications.
Olsen said that core al Qaeda leaders are having difficulty communicating with operatives. Repeating the analysis of Mueller and other top intelligence community officials Olsen cited AQAP as the most active and dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates.
Olsen said that the intelligence community is taking action to locate AQAP’s bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, noting the bomb maker is “a very important person for us to find out where he is and to take appropriate action.”
On the issue of homegrown terrorism Olsen said the intelligence and law enforcement community face “real obstacles on the homegrown side,” citing the difficulty in detecting lone extremists who may not provide typical warning indicators of terrorist activity.
In a question-and-answer session, Olsen also addressed the issue of media leaks relating to the recent bomb plot and called it “devastating.” “Leaks do endanger people’s lives…that is not an exaggeration,” Olsen said.
One reporter questioned Olsen about his preference for using drones to neutralize terrorist threats, or if he favored capture and interrogation. Olsen responded saying, “I have a strong preference for gaining intelligence. That is our goal…we need to always take advantage of whatever opportunities we have to interrogate.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio