Twenty years after the intelligence failures of the September 11th attacks, the Senate Commitee – transformed by that dark day – held its annual meeting to assess the dramatically different challenges now facing the United States.
"Today we face a diverse and evolving threat landscape that includes domestic and international terrorism, malicious cyber activities, and ongoing global pandemic, transnational crime, climate change, and more," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said.
"The United States faces a changed threat from foreign terrorist organizations," said National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid. "The threat today is less acute to the homeland, but it continues to become more ideologically diffuse, and geographically diverse."
Three national security officials who are key to the Biden administration gave their testimony Tuesday: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI director Chris Wray – appointed by Donald Trump but kept by President Biden – and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid.
Officials say Americans are now most threatened by home-grown terrorism instead of attacks from abroad.
"The primary threat in the homeland comes from individuals inspired to violence, either by foreign terrorist groups or other domestic grievances and ideologies," Abizaid said.
And at the forefront – an evolving threat of domestic violent extremism inspired by conspiracy theories, distrust of government, and racism is on the rise.
"We're now at 2700 domestic terrorism investigations when, if you went back two and a half years ago, we were probably more about 1000. So it's been a really significant jump there," Wray said.
But on the horizon, a stark warning about Afghanistan nearly two decades after Osama Bin Laden used the country as a staging ground for the 9/11 attacks.
"We've got to monitor and assess whether that's going to happen faster than we had predicted otherwise," Abizaid said. "Afghanistan is a very dynamic environment right now."
The potential resurgence of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other groups in Afghanistan could possibly rise to the level of a threat to national security – as soon as next year.