CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency Detail Terror Threats

By Linda D. Kozaryn, AFPS

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2003 — North Korea has missiles capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States.

Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network has sophisticated biological weapons capabilities.

Iraq has tested unmanned aerial vehicles that could carry chemical and biological weapons to Iraq’s neighbors and could be transported to the United States.

Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Adm. Lowell Jacoby outlined the complexity and the severity of these threats before the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 12.

Tenet noted that on Feb. 7 President Bush raised the homeland security threat condition to "orange," designating a high likelihood of attack. The CIA chief said raising the threat level buys U.S. officials more time to operate against those plotting to harm Americans.

"Heightened vigilance generates additional information and leads," he said.

U.S. officials currently have information that points to plots aimed at targets in the United States and on the Arabian Peninsula, according to Tenet.

"It points to plots timed to occur as early as the end of the Hajj, which occurs late this week," he said. "And it points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersion device as well as poisons and chemicals."

Al Qaeda has established a presence in Iran and Iraq, and the terrorists continue to find refuge in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "The network is extensive and adaptable," Tenet said. "It will take years of determined effort to unravel this and other terrorist networks and stamp them out."

He said Al Qaeda is also developing new means of attack, including the use of surface-to-air missiles; poisons; and air, surface and underwater methods to attack maritime targets. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has a sophisticated biological weapons capability, Tenet asserted, and he has made efforts to obtain nuclear and radiological materials.

Despite significant successes in combating terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Jacoby said terrorism remains the most immediate threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad.

"A number of terrorist groups, including the FARC in Colombia, various Palestinian organizations and Lebanese Hezbollah, have the capability to do us harm," the admiral said. "But I am most concerned about the al Qaeda network."

Turning to Iraq, Tenet said the Iraqi regime is actively working to deceive U.N. inspectors and deny them access.

"This effort is directed by the highest levels of the Iraqi regime," he said. "Baghdad has given clear instructions to its operational forces to hide banned materials in their possession."

Iraq’s biological weapons program includes mobile research and production facilities that are difficult, if not impossible, for U.N. inspectors to find, Tenet added.

Jacoby said Saddam Hussein appears determined to retain his weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, to reassert his authority over all of Iraq, and to become the dominant regional power.

"Saddam’s penchant for brinksmanship and miscalculation increases the likelihood that he will continue to defy international will and refuse to relinquish his WMD and related programs," Jacoby said.

On North Korea, Tenet noted that Pyongyang’s recent behavior regarding its nuclear weapons program makes apparent the dangers posed to the region and the world. This includes developing the capability to enrich uranium, ending the freeze on its plutonium-production facilities, and withdrawing from the Nonproliferation Treaty.

"Kim Jong Il’s attempt this past year to parlay the North’s nuclear weapons program into political leverage suggests he is trying to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with us, one that implicitly tolerates North Korea’s nuclear weapons program," Tenet said.

Pyongyang’s open pursuit of nuclear weapons, Jacoby said, "is the most serious challenge to U.S. interests in the Northeast Asia area in a generation. … While the North’s new hard-line approach is designed to draw concessions from the United States, Pyongyang’s desire for nuclear weapons reflects a long-term strategic goal that will not be easily abandoned."