Associated PressCIA, FBI Warn Panel of Top Threats to U.S.Thu Feb 17, 2005 16:2322.214.171.124
Posted on Wed, Feb. 16, 2005
CIA, FBI Warn Panel of Top Threats to U.S.
WASHINGTON - Al-Qaida and associated groups top the list of threats to the United States, leading government intelligence officials told Congress on Wednesday in a grim assessment that also highlighted Iran's emergence as a major threat to American interests in the Middle East.
Despite gains made against al-Qaida and other affiliates, CIA Director Porter Goss, in an unusually blunt statement before the mostly secretive Senate Intelligence Committee, said 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 cautioned of the risk posed by radicalized Muslim converts inside the United States and said he worries about a sleeper operative who may have been in place for years, awaiting orders launch an attack.
"I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing," he said in his prepared remarks.
More than three years since the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Goss, Mueller and other intelligence leaders provided these and other bleak assessments at the annual briefing on threats from around the globe.
Also 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 the country's long-term goal is to expel the United States from the region, and noted that political reform movements there have lost momentum.
Goss said that Islamic extremists are exploiting the conflict in Iraq and fighters there represent a "potential pool of contacts" to build transnational terror groups. He said 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 couldn't assure senators that the United States doesn't face a threat from nuclear weapons that may be missing from Russia.
In the past year, the intelligence community has been faced with a series of negative reports, including the work of the Sept. 11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee's inquiry on the flawed Iraq intelligence.
And next month, President Bush's commission to investigate the intelligence community's capabilities on weapons of mass destruction is also expected to submit its findings.
Given the after-the-fact investigations into the Iraq intelligence, Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said his panel will become more proactive in how it reviews the intelligence community's strengths and weaknesses, already focusing on nuclear terrorism and Iran.
In related developments:
_Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also sent out a warning, telling the House Armed Services Committee 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," the Pentagon chief said.
_Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plugged the administration's request for $5.8 billion to fight terrorism and also made a pitch on Capitol Hill for an additional $750 million this year for other countries that assisted in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Senate hearing came as the White House continues its eight-week-long search for a new national intelligence director, a position created in last year's intelligence reorganization bill.
Democrats were critical Wednesday of the pace of the search, saying the administration has not shown the same urgency that Congress showed in creating the position.
ON THE NET
Defense Department: http://www.defense.gov
State Department: http://www.state.gov
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: http://intelligence.senate.gov
America's Most Dangerous Gang
by Shelly Feuer Domash
Spreading from El Salvador to L.A. and across the United States, Mara Salvatrucha 13 is increasingly well organized and deadly.
Within one hour, two people were found murdered miles apart in suburban Nassau County, N.Y. After an intensive investigation, police officials learned the murders were the work of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha 13. It also soon became apparent the gang was sending a bold message to its members and associates. That message: “If you are not loyal, you are dead.”
But there was another message in the brutal slayings for the people of Long Island. And that message was that gang violence had moved into the upper middle class enclaves of the Island, into the kinds of communities where the locals assume that crime is somebody else’s problem.
Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) is unfortunately becoming everybody’s problem. This plague that came to Long Island from El Salvador by way of the streets of Los Angeles follows the same migratory patterns as the Salvadoran immigrant community that it preys upon, fanning out across the United States from ethnic enclaves in California.
Until recently, MS-13 wasn’t that big a player in East Coast gang culture. The reason for its weak position in the East Coast crime world was obvious: It wasn’t very well organized. MS-13 was comprised of a group of cliques that operated independently of each other.
CLICK FULL STORY:
Salon on Gannon's access to WH in February
by John in DC - 2/17/2005 10:35:00 AM
Great story from Eric Boehlert:
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