Thursday, February 17, 2005

Iran, al-Qaida Labeled Biggest Threats to U.S.

The Associated Press, Omaha World-Herald:
Groups associated with al-Qaida are at the top of the list of threats to the United States, government officials said Wednesday, and Iran has emerged as a top threat to American interests in the Middle East.

CIA Director Porter Goss gave an unusually blunt statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that despite gains made against al-Qaida, the terror group is intent on finding ways to circumvent U.S. security enhancements to attack the homeland.

"It may be only a matter of time before al-Qaida or other groups attempt to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. We must focus on that," Goss said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said he worries about a sleeper operative that may have been in place for years to launch an attack inside the United States.

"I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing," he said in his prepared remarks. ...

At the hearing, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, painted Iran as a leading threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East. In his prepared testimony, Jacoby said he believes that Iran will continue its support for terrorism and aid for insurgents in Iraq.

He said Iran's long-term goal is to expel the United States from the region. And he noted that political reform movements in Iran have lost momentum.

Goss said that Islamic extremists are exploiting the conflict in Iraq. Fighters there, he said, represent a "potential pool of contacts" to build transnational terror groups. He said that the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, hopes to establish Iraq as a safe haven to bring about a final victory over the West.

Goss also said that the intelligence community has yet to get to the "end of the trail" of the nuclear black market run by disgraced Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan.

Goss wouldn't rule out the possibility that organizations, rather than states, could obtain nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. He also called "potential Khans" a worry. ...

In related developments:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also sent out a warning, telling the House Armed Services Committee that he believes terrorists are regrouping for another strike. But he also said the United States is preparing to deal with any threat.

"The extremists continue to plot to attack again. They are at this moment recalibrating and reorganizing. And so are we," he said. ...