Thursday, July 19, 2007

Connect the Dots: Likelihood of Nuclear or Radiological Attack by al Qaeda Growing

The National Intelligence Estimate, secret and not-so-secret reports, and even Michael Chertoff’s gut all point in the same direction: the threat and likelihood of an attack by al Qaeda, possibly nuclear or radiological, is growing.

Dot one: Prepared earlier this year but disclosed only last week, a classified National Counterterrorism Center report entitled “Al-Qaida Better Positioned to Strike the West” indicates that al Qaeda is gaining strength, despite nearly six years of the so-called War on Terror. Flying in the face of President Bush’s insistence that al Qaeda has been considerably weakened, the report says that the group is as strong as it was in 2001.

Dot two: A declassified summary of the authoritative National Intelligence Estimate released on Tuesday states that “al-Qa’ida’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 US population.”

Significantly, the report, which represents the consensus of the intelligence community, also states that “al-Qa’ida 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.”

Dot three: Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators recently found that “security measures put in place since the 2001 terrorist attacks to prevent radioactive materials from getting into the wrong hands are insufficient.” (Yes, these are the same investigators that were able to smuggle enough radioactive material into the U.S. to make two dirty bombs using fake documents just last year).

Having set up a bogus company armed only with a postal box, the GAO investigators were able to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a dirty bomb. The bomb would not have caused widespread damage or major contamination, but could have had serious economic consequences and caused mass hysteria and fear.

Dot four: A recently disclosed secret report prepared for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warns that al Qaeda is planning a terror "spectacular" this summer. An unnamed senior official with access to the report was quoted as saying, "This is reminiscent of the warnings and intelligence we were getting in the summer of 2001."

DHS Secretary, Michael Chertoff, responded that the U.S. did not "have any specific credible evidence that there's an attack focused on the United States at this point." Yet not long after he made that comment, Chertoff (with a little help from his gut) said that he believes "we are entering a period this summer of increased risk" and that “summertime seems to be appealing to [al Qaeda].” This after a news report that “new intelligence suggests a small al Qaeda cell is on its way to the United States, or may already be here.”

I don’t need to connect the dots for you; their connection is visible from miles away. But it is my greatest fear that the fifth dot may be the one that goes boom.


Russ Wellen said...

The CIA's "Anonymous" agrees. Michael Scheuer, former head of its bin Laden unit, writes (in his weekly Asia Times Online column):

"Given al-Qaeda's own statements, Chertoff's sense of timing [his gut] is roughly in the ballpark. . . .

"A hint that al-Qaeda's pre-US-attack phase may be winding down is found in the intense emphasis the group's deputy commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has put on promoting unity among jihadist groups - Sunni and Shi'ites - since mid-2005.

"It is impossible to know whether al-Qaeda's leaders are satisfied that enough unity has been achieved to attempt another attack in the United States, but the demonstrable progress toward greater unity they have made, together with the US government's assessment that al-Qaeda's core is as strong as it was on September 11, suggests that Chertoff's 'gut' may have good reason to be astir."

Anonymous said...

This is useful reporting.