Al Qaeda is not, in the words of FBI Director Robert Mueller, "an organization that will go quietly into the night." Speaking recently to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mueller said that "Just as the FBI has changed and developed new tactics to confront al Qaeda’s asymmetrical warfare, al Qaeda has also adapted." He spoke of a "three-tiered threat."
At the top is the traditional al Qaeda organization. In the middle are the al Qaeda franchises. Lastly are the self-radicalized independent agents.
"This is the future of counterterrorism," he said. " We are seeking terrorist leaders in foreign bases, and also lone actors in suburban basements, and also small but sophisticated groups who want to carry out terrorist attacks. The threat exists not only in the mountains of Pakistan, but also in the shadows of the Internet."
Mueller also discussed how the agency, coordinating with other parts of the intelligence community in the United States and counterparts abroad, is working to find plots and plotters early on to disrupt their operations. He noted in the Q&A that followed his prepared remarks that as far as information sharing progress goes, states now have about 100 fusion centers where before 9-11, there were about 30. He also noted the difficulty of recruiting proficient speakers of languages such as Arabic needed for intelligence gathering.