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The head of the National Counterterrorism Center says al Qaeda isn’t as capable as it once was, but terrorists are focused on smaller, simpler plots against the United States.

Director Matthew G. Olsen told Congress that U.S. authorities also are worried about “homegrown violent extremists” who are influenced by surviving al Qaeda leaders.

In testimony prepared for a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, Mr. Olsen said “lone actors or insular groups” pose the most serious homegrown threat.


Republicans plan tour against defense cuts

Senate Republicans warning of the devastating impact from looming defense cuts will hit four presidential battleground states next week, ratcheting up the political pressure on President Obama over the reductions.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire announced Thursday that they will hold a series of town hall meetings in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire — states that are home to military installations and defense contracting jobs.

The three said in a statement they will “sound the alarm about the profound negative consequences of these cuts to our national security and economy. These communities … will bear the brunt of the defense sequestration cuts.”

Mr. McCain voted for the cuts last August; Mr. Graham and Mrs. Ayotte opposed them.


Romney says weapons were acquired illegally

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday said many of the weapons obtained by the shooting suspect in Colorado were obtained illegally and that changing laws won’t prevent gun-related tragedies.

But the firearms that authorities say James Holmes used to kill 12 people in Aurora, Colo., were obtained legally.

“This person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them,” Mr. Romney told NBC News. “And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won’t.”

Mr. Holmes broke no laws when he purchased an assault-style rifle, a shotgun and Glock handgun, and he passed the required background checks. Mr. Holmes allegedly booby-trapped his apartment with explosives. It’s unclear if he obtained the materials illegally, but it’s against Colorado law to build an explosive device.

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