Holder: French attacks point to US threats

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Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that the possibility of a Paris-style terrorist attack in the United States is very real and keeps him “up at night.”

“I certainly think that the possibility of such attacks exists in the United States,” Holder told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It is something that we worry about all the time. It is something that we meet about all the time.”

“What we saw in France over the course of this last week is unfortunately what we’re going to have to confront in the future,” Holder said in a separate interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’ve seen these kinds of attempts in the United States … This is the nature of the new threat we must confront.”

Holder spoke with four of the five Sunday political talk shows from Paris, where world leaders marched to honor the memory of 17 people in violence by terrorists there this week.

In interviews, the attorney general declined to say whether a breakdown in French intelligence contributed to the attacks and demurred when asked what the United States has learned about the events.

“There will be time for an after-action analysis of exactly what we might have done better,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The French have been among our best allies, our greatest friends in this fight against global terrorism,” he added.

Holder also said that while Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility on Friday, the United States has no “credible information” about the true sponsor of the killings.

The interviews represent one of the most prolonged reactions to the attacks by the Obama administration so far. The violence began last Wednesday when two gunmen stormed satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and killed 12. A Jewish deli came under siege on Friday, resulting in more deaths.

The attacks were perpetrated by three men who some believe to be affiliated with a subgroup of al Qaeda in Yemen.

Eyewitnesses reported that the two gunmen who attacked Charlie Hebdo claimed affiliation with the organization. The third terrorist who attacked the Jewish deli pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in a video released Sunday on social media.

“These individuals were inspired in some way,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said on “Fox NewsSunday.”

“They were probably not self-radicalized on the Internet, which is another way these attacks sometimes occur,” Dempsey added.

“There is pretty clear indication that one of them did in fact receive training in Yemen and that there’s a linkage among them whether it’s schools or family relationships. As far as whether it was directed by al Qaeda, I don’t think a linkage has been established.”

Holder said that while there isn’t “any question” the United States “decimated core al Qaeda,” threats from affiliates and lone wolves still persist. He said monitoring suspects is difficult, but urged Americans to remain calm.

“I think the American people should feel secure,” he said on NBC, saying the United States is not considering a rollback of surveillance.

“It is very difficult to maintain contact … to stay in touch with all the people who are potentially going to do these types of things … [But] we are constantly evaluating where we stand with regard to those people who we have suspicions about.”

Holder also called for countries to increase their vigilance, and even to “monitor each others’ citizens,” since “any one nation can be hurt by the citizens of another nation.”

Lawmakers across the Sunday shows expressed concerns that fresh terrorist attacks could be looming in France or the United States, though they said there is no credible evidence of any specific threats.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said attacks could begin happening in Europe once a week. “I think certainly that’s a tempo we could reach given the number of folks who have gone in and out of Syria,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Burr also called the mounting terrorist threat around the world a “war on Western civilization.” Holder, meanwhile, declined at one point to echo France’s prime minister, who said this weekend that his country is at war with “radical Islam.”

“I certainly think that we are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who would corrupt the Islamic faith in the way that they do, to try to justify their terrorist actions,” Holder told ABC.

“So that’s who we are at war with. And we are determined to take the fight to them to prevent them from engaging in these kinds of activities.”

—Lydia Wheeler contributed to this report, which was updated at 3:29 p.m.

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