President Barack Obama’s intelligence chief and his secretary of state offered what sounded like dramatically divergent accounts of the terror threat facing the United States on Thursday – though Secretary of State John Kerry’s office says they were talking about different things.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “when the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled.”
He said preliminary data for the year’s first nine months shows that 13,000 attacks killed 31,000 people – an increase from 2013’s 11,500 attacks that killed 22,000 people worldwide.
ISIS was responsible for more of the attacks than any other group, and 50% occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, Clapper said.
His comments came the day after Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Appropriations Subcommittee that violent conflict around the world is actually at its lowest point in the history of the world.
“It is counterintuitive, but the truth is that notwithstanding the threat of ISIL, notwithstanding people being beheaded publicly and burned publicly and the atrocities that they are perpetrating. And it is a serious, serious challenge to us,” Kerry said in his opening statement to the panel.
“Notwithstanding that, there is actually less threat and less probability of people dying in some sort of violent conflict today than at any time in human history,” he said.
A Kerry aide said he was talking about a much broader issue: violent deaths in general, rather than terrorism. The aide also said Kerry was discussing a much broader time frame than Clapper – so their comments don’t conflict.
During an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats and sits on Senate’s Intelligence and Armed Services committees, said Kerry had it wrong.
“I don’t know where Secretary Kerry was getting his information. It’s inconsistent with what I am hearing,” King said.
“I can’t imagine he would try to make that claim given the totality of the news we’re seeing,” he said. “We’re seeing threats at home, threats in Europe and in the Middle East. I just think he made a mistake.”