Leiter warns of small-scale terrorists

Michael Leiter, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in a recent interview that al-Qaeda still keeps him awake at night, worrying spinoffs that recruit Westerners for small-scale attacks.

In the last interview scheduled before he leaves his position, Leiter said that al-Qaeda has been made weaker due to years of pursuit by a network of U.S. intelligence, special operations and law enforcement, in addition to the Navy SEAL raid that killed its leader, Osama bin Laden, the Associated Press reports.

"They have to ask themselves, 'How did this happen?' and 'If it happened to bin Laden, then it can obviously also happen to me,'" Leiter said, according to the AP.

Leiter, a Harvard-trained lawyer and one of the nation’s ultimate counterterrorist insiders, served first as deputy and then as director of the NCTC. The organization was an experiment in intelligence-sharing mandated by Congress after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks aimed at targeting al-Qaeda and preventing another attack. L

eiter said that the organization must continue to put pressure on the terror network to keep would-be jihadists from traveling to Pakistan for training since the bin Laden raid.

Now that bin Laden is gone, Leiter told the AP that the remnants of al-Qaeda central’s leadership may pursue smaller attacks that are more difficult to stop.

"In my early days of the Bush administration, we still had a greater fear of a catastrophic attack," including the use of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons,” Leiter said, the Associated Press reports. “(After Pakistan) I'm far more concerned now...with the small-scale shooter."

Leiter said that his agency and others are unable to guarantee 100 percent success, especially since there is now so much information, it is difficult to pick up patterns that point to one threat or suspect as more dangerous than another. He called on Americans to be more resilient with fewer recriminations against the government for allowing attacks to happen.