CIA Boss: U.S. Faces Dangers Beyond al Qaeda; Iran and Iraq Pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction
CIA Director George Tenet told Congress on Wednesday that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network remain the most serious threat to U.S. security, but pointed out that there are other dangers which exist worldwide that ought not to be ignored, according to CNN.
Tenet spoke publicly for the first time since the September 11 attacks in the United States, when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Central Intelligence Agency has faced harsh criticism for not knowing about the attacks, and Tenet found himself defending the agency.
"All of us, I think, owe the American people an explanation as to why our intelligence community failed to provide adequate warning of such a terrorist attack on our soil," said Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, vice chairman of the committee.
When it comes to stopping terrorists, Tenet replied, "you are not going to ever be 100 percent."
"When people use the word 'failure,' failure means no focus, no attention, no discipline, and those were not present in what we or the FBI did here or around the world," Tenet explained. He said progress has been made in disrupting al Qaeda operations, pointing to the arrests of nearly 1,000 al Qaeda activists in more than 60 countries around the world, but he said the al Qaeda network continues to plot future attacks.
"We know that they will continue to plan," Tenet stated. "We know that they will hurt us again. We have to minimize, we have to minimize, we have to minimize their ability to do so because there is no perfection in this business."
Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, asked how American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was able to meet Osama bin Laden, but the CIA could not in itself penetrate the organization.
Tenet said Roberts' assertion was not true, but did not elaborate on this matter during the open session. The suggestion that the CIA had not infiltrated al Qaeda was incorrect, an aide to Tenet said later.
Furthermore, the threat of terrorism goes way beyond al Qaeda, Tenet said. The United States must remain informed about the political and economic instabilities in several countries, he noted.
Regarding Pakistan and India, Tenet said they are closer to war than at any point in 30 years. He said a war between them could escalate into a nuclear conflict.
Regarding Iran, it is pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities. It continues to support terrorist groups, including the Hizbullah, Tenet said.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is also seeking weapons of mass destruction, the CIA chief said and added that Baghdad has a long history of supporting terrorists and might work with al Qaeda, despite "divergent ideologies."
Russia and China continue to sell missiles and other weapons technologies and expertise to Iran and other unreliable nations, he said.
North Korea continues exporting complete ballistic missiles and related technology to other countries, including Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iran, Tenet stated. Profits from those sales have been used to develop new weapons, he conveyed.
Somalia's lack of a national government has created "an environment in which groups sympathetic to al Qaeda have offered terrorists an operational base and safe haven."
Moreover, poverty and political instability prevalent in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa has created a breeding ground for terrorist recruiters, Tenet expressed.
Over the next two decades, those regions will have the highest populations of youths who are most likely to become terrorists, he added. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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