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Intelligence Chief: Iran Is More Willing To Launch Attack On U.S.

From left, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and CIA Director David Petraeus take their seats on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, prior to testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

As part of his yearly report to the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, the United States' intelligence chief said that depending how threatened Iran feels, it may be more willing to launch an attack against the U.S.

"The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime," National Director of Intelligence James Clapper told the committee, according to prepared remarks.

Clapper added that whether Iran choses to sponsor attacks will depend on "Tehran's evaluation of the costs it bears for the plot against the ambassador as well as Iranian leaders' perceptions of U.S. threats against the regime." Clapper did not detail what kind of attack Iran is likely to undertake.

The wide-ranging document also assesses Iran's nuclear capabilities. Clapper says Iran has the technological capacity to go nuclear, but it's unclear whether it has the political will to do it. Clapper said the administration hopes financial sanctions imposed by the United States and some of its allies will deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The Washington Post reads Clapper's statement as signaling that the U.S. is "seeking to avoid a violent confrontation with Iran, instead pushing for more and more sanctions and also monitoring the possibility of a preemptive strike by Israel."

The 30-page covers quite a bit of territory, so we've picked out some of the highlights:

-- Bloomberg reports:

"Chinese and Russian cyber spying 'are of particular concern,' and Iran's intelligence operations, 'including cyber capabilities, have dramatically increased in recent years, in depth and complexity,' according to Clapper.

"Non-state actors such as the hacker groups Anonymous and Lulz Security (LulzSec) 'are also playing an increasing role in international and domestic politics through the use of social media technologies,' he said."

-- The New York Times reports that Clapper said al-Qaida will continue fragmenting:

"... Continued pressure from the United States and its allies will likely reduce Al Qaeda's core leadership in Pakistan to "largely symbolic importance" over the next two to three years as the terrorist organization fragments into more regionally focused groups and homegrown extremists."

-- CNN says the report cites cyber threats as a growing problem:

"The report says strides in information technology are "increasing exponentially" and "emerging technologies are developed and implemented faster than governments can keep pace."

"It cites the "failed efforts" to censor social media during the Arab Spring and denial of service attacks and website defacements by hackers against governments and corporations.

"'The well-publicized intrusions into NASDAQ and International Monetary Fund networks underscore the vulnerability of key sectors of the U.S. and global economy,' the report says."

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