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By Jonathan S. Landay
WASHINGTON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - CIA Director John Brennan on Monday warned that last week’s attacks in Paris were not a “one-off event,” and that the Islamic State may already be preparing similar operations.
“I would anticipate that this is not the only operation that ISIL has in the pipeline,” Brennan said in a speech to a policy institute, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
“And security intelligence services right now in Europe and other places are working feverishly to see what else they can do in terms of uncovering it.”
Brennan’s comments came as authorities in France, Belgium and other nations worked to track down suspects in Friday’s attacks on a concert hall, sports stadium, restaurants and bars in Paris that killed 129 people and were claimed by the Islamic State.
The CIA chief said U.S. intelligence still had not confirmed that Islamic State was responsible, but added that the Paris attacks and the suspected bombing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt on Oct. 31 “bear the hallmarks” of the radical Islamist group.
“It is clear to me that ISIL has an external agenda, that they are determined to carry out these types of attacks,” said Brennan.
Islamic State threatened in a new video on Monday to “strike America” in Washington and warned that countries taking part in air strikes against Syria would suffer the same fate as France.
The Paris attacks did not surprise the U.S. intelligence community, which had “strategic warning” that the Islamic State was planning to strike somewhere outside of the Middle East and was “looking at Europe in particular,” Brennan said.
“I certainly wouldn’t consider (the Paris attacks) a one-off event,” he said. “It is clear to me that ISIL has an external agenda, that they are determined to carry out these types of attacks.”
One problem that intelligence services face is that militant groups have intensified their security measures as a result of “unauthorized disclosures,” said Brennan. While he did not elaborate, Brennan apparently was referring to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of the agency’s massive communications monitoring operations, and leaks of government documents by Wikileaks.
Governments have contributed to the problem by reacting to outcries over those disclosures by implementing new policies that have made “our ability collectively internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging,” he continued.
Moreover, he said, European security agencies have been overwhelmed trying to keep track of the thousands of European militants who have traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq and then returned home more radicalized and with combat skills.
Another serious problem is the ease with which European borders can be crossed, Brennan said. (Reporting by Jonathan S. Landay; Editing by Alistair Bell)