Intelligence Chairs Warn of 'New Bombs, Very Big Bombs'

By Susan Jones | December 2, 2013 | 6:07 AM EST

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) (AP File Photo)

( - Are Americans safer now than they were a year or two ago? No, said the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Sunday.

"I don't think so," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley.

"I think terror is up worldwide. The statistics indicate that -- the fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnatometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever, and there's huge malevolence out there."

Feinstein later added that people "can get on aircraft with those bombs. They have tried to send four into this country..."

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, had a similar response:

"Oh, I absolutely agree that we're not safer today for the same very reasons," he told Crowley. "So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it's getting more difficult because we see the al Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different, more affiliates than we've ever had before, meaning more groups that operated independently of al Qaeda have now joined al Qaeda around the world -- all of them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against western targets all around the world.

"They've now switched to this notion that maybe smaller events are okay. So if you have more smaller events than bigger events, they think that might still lead to their objectives and their goals. That makes it exponentially harder for our intelligence services to stop an event like that," Rogers said.

Feinstein told CNN that the main problem is "displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community," which blames the Western world for everything that goes wrong and believes that the only solution is "Islamic sharia law and the concept of the caliphate."

"And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it's not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well," Feinstein added.

Rogers expressed particular concern about nations like Syria, where al Qaeda and its affiliates are attracting Westerners to their cause. The "scary part" is that many people with Western passports are now returning home, fully trained and radicalized:

"A percentage of them have already gone home, including the United States, by the way, is included in that western number. We are very, very concerned that these folks who have western paper (passports) have gone there, participated in combat events, are trained, are further radicalized, now have the ability to go back in western countries.

And now they have a connection, a direct connection to al Qaeda affiliates operating in a place where most people would say, well, we have no interest in Syria. Well, clearly we do. And clearly, that's just one place. And it's starting to spread...Iraq is having its problems now. It's spreading into Lebanon, Jordan has issues, Turkey along the border has issues. This is very, very, very concerning."

Aside from the diversity of threats, Rogers pointed to the challenge of detecting them before something happens: "We have now three al Qaeda affiliate groups have changed the way they communicate, meaning it's less likely that we're going to be able to detect something prior to an event that goes operational, meaning that they've already started the final planning stages to blow something up or shoot someone.

And so we're fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community -- that is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats. And so we've got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys. The bad guys, the al Qaeda affiliates, Russian intelligence services, Chinese intelligence services, the Quds force that operates terrorism events all around the world, those are the folks we need to focus our attention and our energy on in order to keep America safe."