"Report: Al Qaeda may use Iraq operatives to attack U.S.," from CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda will try to tap its allies and resources in Iraq in its efforts to exact another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, according to a top government intelligence report released Tuesday.
Officials have expressed concern in the past that the Iraq war is providing a theater for al Qaeda to train insurgents and test the terror network's capabilities.
"In addition, we assess that its association with [al Qaeda in Iraq] helps al Qaeda to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for homeland attacks," states the declassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate.
But the radicalization process doesn't stop there, according to the report. Islamist Web sites, aggressive anti-American rhetoric and an increasing number of self-generating terror cells in Western countries indicate that violent factions of Islam are spreading.
"An increasing number of self-generating terror cells." The notion of spontaneous generation has been out of vogue for a few centuries now, but still serves the same purpose as a substitute for: "We have no idea why this is happening."
Though the problem is more dire in Europe than the United States, the report says, there is evidence that extremists in the U.S. are "becoming more connected ideologically, virtually and/or in a physical sense to the global extremist movement."
Declassified portions of the completed NIE -- which represents the combined analyses of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies -- was released Tuesday after the classified version was presented to Congress.
Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, gave President Bush a special briefing on the report Tuesday morning, a senior administration official said.
The report also warns that al Qaeda -- which it says has become "innovative in creating new capabilities and overcoming security obstacles" -- is beefing up efforts to sneak operatives into the United States.
"Although we have discovered only a handful of individuals in the United States with ties to al Qaeda senior leadership since 9/11, we judge that al Qaeda will intensify its efforts to put operatives here," states an NIE summary.
"As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment," the summary says.
International cooperation on counterterrorism efforts has made the U.S. a more elusive target for al Qaeda -- and has also led to thwarted plots since the September 11, 2001, attacks -- but, the report warns, "this level of international cooperation may wane as 9/11 becomes a more distant memory and perceptions of the threat diverge."
Mass casualties are not the endgame for the terror network, according to the report. Al Qaeda also seeks to perpetrate a sensational attack that produces "visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks and/or fear among the U.S. population," states the summary.