By Jordy Yager - 02/16/12 12:03 AM EST
“We are constantly monitoring their activities around the world. We’re working very closely with the FBI and the [intelligence] community in this regard. And in addition we are reaching out to particularly the Jewish community across the country who have been the intended targets in the past.”
The secretary’s comments came two weeks after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that a 2011 plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States — which U.S. officials say was hatched in Iran — indicates that Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his government are willing to launch attacks in the United States.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said he’s heard an increasing amount of concern from Jewish constituents in his Long Island district and pointed to the alleged assassination plot. King also alluded to a growing number of attacks being blamed on Hezbollah and Iran in recent days.
Officials are investigating bomb attacks in India and Thailand, and another failed attempt in Georgia. Israel has blamed Hezbollah and Iran, which has been labeled by the U.S. as a key financial backer of the group.
“Now with the increased tension in the Middle East, I believe that there’s a growing threat from Hezbollah,” said King. “Certainly I know I have been contacted by local police, also by local houses of worship, especially by synagogues.
Napolitano said DHS officials convened a “very large” conference call this week with Jewish community leaders around the country and “remain in constant touch with them.”
Before the Senate, Clapper said the United States is working closely with Israel in an effort to combat Iran, which the United States believes is moving towards weaponizing a nuclear warhead.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told "60 Minutes" in a recent interview that “there are no option that are off the table” when it comes to stopping Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, including taking military steps. One of the main concerns for U.S. officials is that Iran could share its nuclear technologies with Hezbollah if it’s allowed to fully enrich uranium.
Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) noted Iran and Hezbollah’s growing presence throughout the world, including recent attempts by Iran to engage with countries less than friendly with the U.S.
“They act as a proxy for Syria, Venezuela, and Iran; they have a presence that’s pervasive and growing in the 20-country region of Latin America. They also have a presence in at least 15 American cities and four major cities in Canada,” said Walsh.
“I think that presence is a very severe threat and I think it needs to be addressed.”
Napolitano agreed, but under questioning from Democrats she cautioned against blanketing all extremist and terrorist groups together.
“We live in a very volatile world in a number of respects,” she said. “We’re dealing with evolving threats, they change all the time. They can be from al Qaeda, al Qaeda-related groups, Islamist groups of other types. Terrorism [and] extremism is not limited by national boundaries and it’s not limited to any one particular ideology.
“It’s Islamist, Jihadist; it can be based on other ideologies,” she said. “It can be internationally based. It can be homegrown, so it requires those of us that are in the terrorism prevention area to be looking at all of the known threats all of the time.”
Clapper is set to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday about worldwide threats to the U.S.’s security.