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Timothy R. Furnish, a counterterrorism specialist, however, said he doubts the group will conduct U.S. strikes.

Mr. Furnish said al-Shabab is an al Qaeda affiliate that is being challenged by a pan-Sufi Islamic trend called Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jamaah.

“Covertly supported by the United States, [Ahl al-Sunnah] has greatly reduced al-Shabab’s area of control in Somalia — but obviously it has not eliminated it,” he said in a brief report.

“Al-Shabab, for all its east African nastiness, is not a threat to the United States, and claims that it will become so via the Somali expatriate communities here are far-fetched at best.

“Al-Shabab is, however, a serious terrorist threat in the Horn of Africa and, as it continues to build links to Boko Haram [terrorists] in Nigeria and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, among others, to the entire African continent — particularly Christians therein.”

NSA CHIEF ON SNOWDEN

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith B. Alexander said Wednesday that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has harmed U.S. national security and helped America’s enemies by disclosing the agency’s secrets.

Gen. Alexander also suggested that both China and Russia gained access to the stolen classified documents held by Mr. Snowden, whom the general described as an “IT administrator responsible for moving data to a common website.”

“We trusted him, and he betrayed that trust,” Gen. Alexander said during a speech at a cybersecurity conference.

“But that doesn’t make [Snowden] a hero, stealing our data, going to China and going to Russia and doing what he’s done to this country,” he said.

Gen. Alexander said the disclosures by Mr. Snowden damaged NSA’s electronic intelligence capabilities and will help U.S. enemies.

“I’ll tell you the people that learn from this are the ones that will hurt our nation and hurt our people. They will learn from it,” he said. “And the tools that were so effective over the past decade will not be as effective in the future.”

One of the most damaging recent disclosures by Snowden is a top-secret security classification guide revealing a program code-named BULLRUN on the agency’s most sensitive capabilities: electronic code-breaking.

“Project BULLRUN deals with NSA’s abilities to defeat the encryption used in specific network communication technologies,” according to a document published Sept. 5 by Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “BULLRUN involves multiple sources, all of which are extremely sensitive.”