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Iraq and the international terrorism threat - US officials warn of future attacks

CIA director Goss: 'All Qaeda or another group will likely try to eclipse 9/11 attacks using nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons'
February 16, 2005

MIM: The links on the right pertain to the 2003 story below about an Italian terror alert

for attacks against NATO installations but provide valuable information on the international terror threat.;jsessionid=WFIA4ZYHPJSXSCRBAELCFFA?type=domesticNews&storyID=7653566&pageNumber=1

Conflict Feeds International Terror Threat -CIA
Wed Feb 16, 2005

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Islamic militants waging a deadly insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq pose an emerging international terrorism threat, CIA Director Porter Goss said on Wednesday.

In his first public appearance as U.S. spymaster, Goss described Iraqi insurgents, including al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as part of a Sunni militant movement inspired by Osama bin Laden and intent on attacking Americans.

"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries," he said.

President Bush, who portrays U.S.-led actions in Iraq as the leading edge of democratic reform in the Middle East, cited Iraqi backing for international terrorism as a reason for the 2003 invasion.

But a top level U.S. inquiry found last year that there had in fact been no collaboration between al Qaeda and Iraq under President Saddam Hussein.

Bush critics say the invasion was a distraction from the global war against terrorism declared after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by al Qaeda on the United States and has stirred up a violent response in Iraq that inflamed further terrorism.

"These sentences indicate Goss is very much listening to what his analysts are saying, and not necessarily to what the White House wants to hear," said Kenneth Katzman, terrorism analyst for the Congressional Research Service.

"Zarqawi has sought to bring about the final victory of Islam over the West, and he hopes to establish a safe haven in Iraq from which his group could operate against 'infidel' Western nations and 'apostate' Muslim governments," Goss said.

Presenting the CIA's annual "threat assessment," Goss also said insurgents achieved some of their goals in the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections by keeping Sunni Arab voter turnout low.


A long-time intelligence officer and former chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, Goss took over the CIA last year with a mandate to reform the premier U.S. spy agency after huge lapses in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2003 Iraq invasion.

His predecessor, George Tenet, resigned amid widespread criticism over flawed intelligence about the threat from Iraq that critics say was exaggerated to meet a political agenda.

Goss told the lawmakers that U.S. authorities and their allies had dealt "serious blows" to the al Qaeda network.

"Despite these successes, however, the terrorist threat to the U.S. in the homeland and abroad endures," he said in an assessment that differed little from last year's report.

Goss was one of several top officials to appear before the Senate committee, which is scrutinizing U.S. intelligence on Iran, North Korea and other hot spots in hopes of avoiding mistakes committed before the war on Iraq.

FBI Director Robert Mueller testified al Qaeda remained intent on attacking the United States, likely by using low-tech methods of the kind employed in 2001 when terrorists killed about 3,000 people after hijacking airliners with box-cutters.

Goss said al Qaeda or another group would likely try to eclipse the Sept. 11 attacks by using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons that authorities say could be stolen or purchased from nations such as North Korea.

Officials also warned that North Korea, which declared last week that it had nuclear arms, could soon be ready to test a new long-range nuclear-capable missile which could hit targets across North America.

Private analysts doubt North Korea could pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland any time soon.


Bush Administration Officials Warn of Future Terrorist Acts Against United States


The Associated Press

Feb. 16, 2005 - Speaking with one voice, President Bush's top intelligence and military officials said Wednesday that terrorists are regrouping for possible new strikes against the United States.

They said the best defense was for Congress to approve the president's military and anti-terror budget. But some in Congress, including prominent Republicans, were questioning some of that spending.

Offering few specifics on terror threats, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a House hearing that the government could reasonably predict attacks would come from terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and other means.

Meanwhile, new CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee the Iraq war was giving terrorists experience and contacts for future attacks, and FBI Director Robert Mueller expressed worry that a sleeper operative in the U.S. may have been in place for years, awaiting orders for an attack.

"I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing," Mueller said in remarks he submitted to the senators.

Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee that the proposed $419 billion defense package for 2006 would set an ambitious course to "continue prosecuting the war and to attack its ideological underpinnings."

Yet the Republican-controlled Congress may exercise its considerable authority over federal spending and reject White House requests to simply sign the checks.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers were questioning billions in foreign aid and State Department spending that Bush requested in an emergency bill this week.

DeLay, R-Texas, said some of Bush's foreign aid proposals "probably do not qualify" for the expedited treatment he's seeking.

The current congressional debate over how to allocate billions of dollars on initiatives aimed at spreading peace and ensuring security follows three years of massive spending in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Senior administration officials appearing at a series of congressional hearings Wednesday described a Muslim extremist threat that's become more diffuse, encompassing al-Qaida and like-minded associates.

Goss said al-Qaida remains intent on circumventing U.S. security measures and attacking the United States.

"It may be only a matter of time before al-Qaida or other groups attempt to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons," Goss said at the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on threats.

In his first testimony as CIA chief, Goss said the Iraq conflict has become a cause for extremists.

"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks," Goss said.

Even as terrorism remained at the forefront, senior diplomatic and intelligence officials outlined a number of countries that pose conventional diplomatic, military and intelligence problems to the United States.

Goss said North Korea continues to "develop, produce, deploy and sell ballistic missiles of increasing range and sophistication." He said the secretive regime could "at any time" resume flight testing of a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear payload.

Iran, too, is further improving its Shahab-3 long-range ballistic missile, which has a range of more than 800 miles, Goss said.

In written testimony, Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he believes Iran will continue its support for terrorism and aid for insurgents in Iraq. "Iran's long-term goal is to see the U.S. leave Iraq and the region," he said.

Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blamed Syria for having undermined stability in neighboring Lebanon. On Monday, a massive car bomb explosion in downtown Beirut killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"The Syrians (have) a special responsibility for the kind of destabilization that happened there, that this sort of thing could happen," said Rice, who also blamed Syria for contributing to the insurgency in Iraq and endangering U.S. forces.

Rice laid out a menu of spending initiatives, including $658 million for a new embassy compound in Baghdad, $1.2 billion for U.S. obligations to international organizations and $5.8 billion in assistance to U.S. partners in the war on terror.

Grim at times, the appraisals on threats to the United States indicated the second Bush term would remain fraught with warnings but often short on specifics shared with the public.

During the presidential campaign last year, the Bush-Cheney team often warned vaguely of terror threats.

Still, officials attempted to balance alarm with caution Wednesday. Rumsfeld noted U.S. successes in building a 90-nation anti-terror coalition, putting a squeeze on terror financing and eliminating two-thirds of al-Qaida's leadership.

But "it isn't over. It's going to take a while," Rumsfeld said. "It is a very serious business we're in."


For more on international terrorism see the links from this 2003 article

Arrests trigger Italy terror alert
Italian policeman escorts suspect

Italy has carried out a series of arrests in recent months
Italy's National Security Committee is reviewing security at sensitive sites, amid fears that five Moroccans arrested this week were planning terrorist attacks.

The men, detained for illegal possession of explosives, are suspected of having links to extremist groups elsewhere in Europe.

Police found maps with Nato bases in northern Italy ringed and a plan of central London during the arrests south of Venice.

Italian authorities are now considering how best to secure their military sites, as well as prominent historical sites such as the leaning tower of Pisa.

The arrest of the five suspects was approved by the investigating judge and they have now been remanded in custody, say reports.


The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says if the men had been plotting an attack, it is more likely that it would have taken place in Italy than in London.

The map of central London did not have any targets marked but other maps showed a Nato base in Verona where targets had been ringed.

Officers found a kilogram (2.2 lb) of explosives in the building where the men were staying in the northern city of Rovigo, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south-west of Venice.

Our correspondent says the powerful C4 explosive discovered is the same type as that used in the Bali bombing in October and could only be accessed through military sources.

But, he says, if the men were indeed planning any attack, it would not be particularly sophisticated and certainly nothing on the level of the 11 September operation.

Routine search

Police said they found the explosives during a routine search for illegal immigrants in an abandoned building where the men were squatting.

Building where explosives were said to have been found The men lived in an abandoned building

Reports say the flat was scattered with beer cans and the explosives were found in a sock under a pile of laundry.

A religious leader of Rovigo's Muslim community was among those arrested, the Associated Press news agency quoted a police source as saying.

In court on Friday, Judge Rosanna Oggioni confirmed that the men were charged with possession of explosives, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

She ordered that they be remanded in custody, on the grounds that they could attempt the crime again, tamper with evidence or abscond.

Sofia Tiengo, a lawyer for two of the suspects, said her clients denied the allegations.

If found guilty, the men face up to eight years in prison.

US praise

The US attorney general, who met Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli on Thursday, welcomed the latest development.

Mr Ashcroft said the arrests were "tangible evidence that Italy takes terrorism seriously and fights it aggressively".

Mr Castelli said Italy was "engaged in the front line, and Italy has shown concrete results".

Dozens of people have been arrested in Italy in recent months as part of a crackdown on Islamic terror cells operating in the country.

Last October, police arrested three Egyptians in Anzio, south of Rome, after they said they found explosives and a map of a US military cemetery in the men's apartment.

The BBC's Frank Gardner
"This certainly appears to be an alarming development in the war on terror"
The BBC's Frances Kennedy
"The explosive was found inside an old sock"
 Full coverage

Key stories Hunting an Iraqi link Guantanamo update

European probe Spanish swoop Italy on alert Hamburg connection Europe's al-Qaeda hunt

Background Al-Qaeda battle update Who's who in al-Qaeda Roots of jihad Al-Qaeda's origins

The investigation The money trail
See also:

24 Jan 03 | UK Q & A: European terror arrests
06 Sep 02 | Europe Europe's hunt for al-Qaeda
08 Jan 03 | Africa Arrests renew focus on Algeria's Islamists
12 Jul 02 | Europe Italy arrests nine over al-Qaeda links
11 Jul 02 | Europe Venice placed on terror alert
25 Feb 02 | Europe Analysis: Italy's terror connection
24 Feb 02 | Europe 'Terror tunnels' found in Rome
22 Feb 02 | Europe Italy jails four terror suspects
21 Feb 02 | Europe 'Cyanide plotters' face terror charges
Internet links:

Italian Government

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