- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Iran is stepping up its spying against the United States, and Tehran might launch terrorist attacks against U.S. targets, including those in the homeland, if the Islamic regime feels threatened, the top U.S. intelligence chief said Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper cited last year’s discovery of a plot by Iranian officials to kill a Saudi diplomat in Washington as evidence of Tehran’s threat to the U.S.

It “shows that some Iranian officials - probably including supreme leader Ali Khamenei - have changed their calculus and are now more will[JUMP]ing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime,” he testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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,” Mr. Clapper said.

His testimony noted that Tehran “continues to support proxies and surrogates abroad” - a reference, in part, to the regime’s links with Hezbollah, a militant Shiite group that is part of Lebanon’s government but which U.S. officials say is a terrorist outfit involved in the global drug trade.

Iran is keeping its options open 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,” Mr. Clapper said, essentially echoing his testimony during a similar hearing on foreign intelligence threats last year.

Senators questioned Mr. Clapper and other intelligence officials about the growing tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, and in particular about whether Israel would strike Iran this year.

“We’re doing a lot with the Israelis, working together with them,” Mr. Clapper said, adding that he is “very, very concerned” about a strike. He asked to discuss this “very sensitive issue” in closed session.

CIA Director David H. Petraeus said he met with the head of the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad in Washington last week.

“That is part of an ongoing dialogue” that includes monthly chats with senior Israeli officials, said Mr. Petraeus, a retired Army general.

Both men noted that Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as “an existential threat,” which Mr. Petraeus said should be kept in mind as officials mull the issue.

Iran has joined Russia and China as one of the “most menacing foreign intelligence threats” to the U.S., Mr. Clapper testified. Foreign intelligence services from those three countries “will remain the top threats to the United States in the coming years.”

Iran’s intelligence operations against the United States, including cyber capabilities, have dramatically increased in recent years in depth and complexity,” he said.

Previous assessments of the foreign spy threat, such as last year’s report to Congress by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, identified economic espionage by Russia and China as a top-tier intelligence threat, but did not highlight Iran.

A former U.S. counterintelligence chief told The Washington Times that is significant.

Story Continues →