Small, hard-to-detect terror plots are an increasing worry of the military command responsible for protecting US territory, according to the top Navy officer tapped to take over US Northern Command.
Vice Adm James Winnefeld Jr did not refer directly to the Christmas Day attempt to take down an airliner bound for Detroit, Michigan, but he told senators in a Senate questionnaire that the evolving move by extremists to wage attacks on a smaller scale is a major worry.
"This threat is determined and patient, will attempt to use our freedoms against us, will search for any path to produce violent events, and harbours no qualms about killing innocent men, women and children to achieve its objectives," Winnefeld said in the questionnaire obtained by The Associated Press.
Winnefeld has been nominated to take over the Pentagon's homeland defense command as well as the North American Aerospace Command, which defends against airspace and maritime threats.
A naval aviator who has been serving as the commander of US 6th Fleet in Europe, Winnefeld also singled out escalating drug trafficking and violence on the US southern border as a priority.
America's most serious challenge, he said, is protecting the country from extremists using weapons of mass destruction.