By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
July 17, 2007 – Islamic terrorist groups, particularly al Qaeda, are likely to remain a persistent threat to the U.S. homeland over the next three years, according to unclassified parts of a new National Intelligence Estimate released today. The report, which includes input from 16 intelligence organizations, eight within the Defense Department, paints a picture of terrorists' "undiminished intent to attack the homeland." It notes that these groups continue to adapt and improve their capabilities, with al Qaeda promoting cooperation among them.
"Al Qaeda is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots," the report says. It also cites al Qaeda's influence in "pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and supplement its capabilities."
The report notes that few people with ties to al Qaeda's senior leadership have been discovered in the United States since 9/11. However, it predicts that al Qaeda "will intensify its efforts to put operatives here" to coordinate or carry out attacks.
"We assess that al Qaeda's homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks and/or fear among the U.S. population," the report states.
It notes that the network is "innovative in creating new capabilities and overcoming security obstacles."
Increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have hampered al Qaeda's ability to attack the United States again, leading it and other terrorist groups to perceive the U.S. homeland as "a harder target to strike since 9/11," the report acknowledges.
It points out that these measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since Sept. 11.
But despite these successes, the report expresses concern that "this level of international cooperation may wane as 9/11 becomes a more distant memory and perceptions of the threat diverge."
This is particularly troubling, the report notes, in light of the fact that al Qaeda is likely to leverage the contacts and capabilities of its most visible and capable affiliate, al Qaeda in Iraq. That organization, the report notes, has expressed a desire to attack the United States.
By associating with al Qaeda in Iraq, the larger al Qaeda network is able "to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources and recruit and indoctrinate operatives," the report said.
While citing al Qaeda as the major concern, the report also points to other radical groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah and other non-Muslim extremists, as threats. In light of their violent histories, an attack from these groups over the next three years is likely, it predicts.
Globalization and technological advances are making it easier for even small groups of alienated people find and connect with each other, it notes. In doing so, they are able to "justify and intensify their anger and mobilize their resources to attack - all without requiring a centralized terrorist organization, training camp or leader."
Eight intelligence organizations within the Defense Department contributed to the report: the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Intelligence.