National Intelligence Estimate: Al Qaeda stronger and a threat to US homeland
Al Qaeda is preparing for a major strike against the US, reports the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The terrorist organization has intensified efforts to insert operatives in the US, however, since the 9/11 attacks only a "handful" of senior operatives have been discovered inside the US. The NIE also indicates that Al Qaeda will deploy nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons if they can acquire them.
We assess that al-Qai'da's homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population. The group is proficient with conventional small arms and improvised explosive devices, and is innovative in creating new capabilities and overcoming security obstacles.
We assess that al-Qai'da will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability.
President Bush has defended his post-9/11 counterterrorism policies by citing the absence of new attacks on American soil and arguing that terrorists in Iraq present a greater challenge to US interests. The newly released report, however, has weakened President Bush's argument, reports The Washington Post.
[T]his line of defense seemed to unravel a bit yesterday with the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that al-Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" by reestablishing a haven in Pakistan and reconstituting its top leadership. The report also notes that al-Qaeda has been able "to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks," by associating itself with an Iraqi subsidiary.
These disclosures triggered a new round of criticism from Democrats and others who say that the administration took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq without first destroying Osama bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan.