US intelligence director calls al-Qaida top threat

WASHINGTON  — Amid criticism that intelligence services missed the signs of Arab revolt in Tunisia and Egypt, the nation's top intelligence official will tell Congress that the threat from al-Qaida and its affiliates remains his No. 1 priority, US officials said.
In testimony scheduled Thursday before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will stress that counterterrorism to keep Americans safe is the focus of the intelligence community, according to one of those officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
Clapper is expected defend how the intelligence community tracked the revolts that have swept through two major American allies in the Arab world, toppling the leader of Tunisia and threatening the regime in Egypt, the officials said.
Lawmakers have questioned whether the focus on al-Qaida and its militant offshoots has weakened the intelligence community's attention toward other parts of the world.
The threat assessment hearing is often described as the most important of the year because the director of intelligence lays out the 16 major intelligence agencies' priorities. It drives the agenda for the intelligence community and the congressional committees that must decide what issues to tackle and what programs to fund.