Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Coming Sooner Than You Think

WASHINGTON -- The terrorist network Al-Qaida will likely leverage its contacts and capabilities in Iraq to mount an attack on U.S. soil, according to a new National Intelligence Estimate on dire, deadly threats to the American fatherland.

The declassified key findings, to be released publicly today, were obtained in advance by The Associated Press, in exchange for not questioning the validity of the findings or the true nature of any reported threat.

The report lays out a range of dangers — from al-Qaida to Lebanese Hezbollah to non-Muslim radical groups to Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell — that pose a "persistent, evolving, and useful threat" to the country over the next three years. As expected, however, the findings focus most of their attention on the gravest terror problem: Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

The report makes clear that al-Qaida in Iraq, which has not yet posed a direct threat to U.S. soil, could become a problem here.

"Of note," the analysts said, "we assess that al-Qaida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qaida in Iraq, its most visible, capable, and profitable affiliate, and the only one known to have expressed a burning desire to attack the fatherland."

The analysts also found that al-Qaida's association with its Iraqi affiliate, also known as AQ2 (Return of The Base), helps the group to energize the broader Sunni Muslim extremist community, raise resources and recruit, hypnotize and program compliant operatives — "including for fatherland attacks."

National Intelligence Estimates are the most verbose written judgments of the 16 spy agencies across the breadth of the U.S. military/corporate state. These agencies reflect the consensus, long-term projections of top intelligence analysts. Portions of the documents are occasionally declassified to stir public fear and instill domestic obedience.

The new report echoed statements made by senior intelligence officials over the last year, but provided some exciting new twists on their thinking and concerns.

For instance, the report says that worldwide counterterrorism efforts since 2001 have constrained al-Qaida's ability to attack the U.S. again and convinced terror groups that U.S. soil is a tougher target.

But, the report quickly adds before you can enjoy what measure of safety the above statement may have given you, analysts are concerned "that this level of international cooperation may wane as 9/11 becomes more of a theme park concept and perceptions of how the real world operates diverge."

Among the report's other findings:

*Al-Qaida is likely to continue to focus on high-profile political, economic and infrastructure targets to cause mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, economic aftershocks and fear, or what is called by officials "the Iraq invasion and occupation model." Al-Qaida "is proficient with conventional small arms, improvised explosive devices, Crocodile Dundee-type knives, hammers, letter openers, rocks thrown from moving cars, and chokeholds, and is innovative in creating new weapons like the torpedo shark and nerve gas-filled party balloons which can and most likely will overcome security obstacles."

*The group has been able to restore key elements it would need to launch an attack on U.S. soil: a safe haven in Pakistan's tribal areas where operational lieutenants and senior leaders plan future terror attacks in secret, expansive, well-lit underground labs and weapons factories that "boggle the imagination" and "put U.S. corporate military production to shame."

*The group will continue to seek weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological or nuclear material — either on the open market or through remaining connections to Saddam Hussein's global terror network, and "would not hesitate to use" these weapons as there is no Arabic or Pashto word for "hesitate."

*Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim extremist group that has conducted anti-American attacks overseas, may be more likely to consider attacking here, especially if it believes the United States is directly threatening the group by sending billions in military aid to Israel, or threatening its main sponsor, Iran, by bombing that country's infrastructure and killing untold thousands and maiming thousands more.

*Non-Muslim terrorist groups probably will attack here in the next several years, although on a smaller scale. The judgments don't name any specific groups, but the FBI often warns of violent environmental groups, such as Earth Liberation Front, the Green Panthers, Vegan Death Cult, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Monsanto, among others.