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National Intelligence Estimate: Al Qaeda stronger and a threat to US homeland

Report points to war in Iraq and Pakistan's tribal areas as allowing Al Qaeda to regroup.

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The release of a new report Tuesday that says Al Qaeda has reorganized to pre-9/11 strength and is preparing for a major US strike has sparked debate among government officials and observers about the Bush administration's foreign policy and counterterrorism efforts. The National Intelligence Estimate assessment indicates that the Islamic terrorist organization's rise has been bolstered by the Iraq war and the failure to counter extremism in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland" report focuses on the next three years and is the first report to review the potential for terrorist attacks exclusively in the United States, reports The Boston Globe. The nation's 16 intelligence agencies began compiling the report last October and completed their assessment in June. Though the report indicated that Hizbullah may become a threat if the US takes action against Iran or seriously threatens or attacks the Islamic organization, the majority of the report focused on the "rejuvenating effect the Iraq war has had on Al Qaeda."

For the last few years intelligence officials have suggested much of Al Qaeda's central leadership has been neutralized, and that the primary national security threat came from splinter groups [Osama] bin Laden inspired but doesn't command. Yesterday's assessment summary concludes that the same organization that meticulously planned and executed the September 11th attacks is alive and well.
"This clearly says Al Qaeda is not beaten," said Michael Scheuer , who formerly headed up the CIA's bin Laden search team.

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