U.S. intelligence agencies have reason to believe that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats from America and its allies, the U.S. spy chief said Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in prepared testimony that the Iranian plot, revealed last year, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is telling of Tehran's willingness to authorize attacks on American soil.
That plot "shows that some Iranian officials probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime," Clapper said in the testimony, which was submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee in advance of a threat assessment hearing Tuesday.
"We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas," the Post cited Clapper as saying.
The new information comes as there are increased indications that a top-secret campaign has been launched to thwart Iran's alleged nuclear weapon ambition.
"Iran has the technical ability to build a nuclear weapon - but simply hasn't decided to yet, Clapper said.
"We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons," he added.
Clapper's warning was part of the U.S. intelligence community's annual overview of the nation's most pressing national security concerns. Clapper's testimony also calls attention to a heightened concern over cyber-related threats, as well as the weakened but ever-present danger to the United States posed by al-Qaeda.
In October, U.S. officials accused Iran of being behind the disrupted plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. The plot was centered on assassins from a Mexican drug cartel killing the diplomat at a D.C. restaurant. U.S. officials said the plot was created by an Iranian American with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The plan came apart when the Iranian American mistakenly hired a paid informant of the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry it out. Iranian officials have denied any role in the plot.
At the time, Obama administration officials said they were unclear on "how high up" in the Iranian leadership there had been officials approving the plan. Clapper's Tuesday reference to Khameni is the first time U.S. officials have mentioned Iran's supreme leader in connection with the plot.
READ MORE at WashingtonPost.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.