The director of the Central Intelligence Agency is warning that the al-Qaida
terrorist network remains capable of striking the United States on a scale similar
to that of September 11, 2001, despite U.S. efforts aimed at dismantling the
organization. Director George Tenet made his comments before a U.S. Senate panel
In an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Tenet offered
a sobering assessment of the threat al-Qaida still poses to the United States
and its allies.
"We have time and again uncovered plots that are chilling: On aircraft plots
alone we have uncovered new plans to recruit pilots and to evade new security
measures in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe," he said. "Even catastrophic
attacks on the scale of 9/11 remain within al-Qaida's reach. Make no mistake,
these plots are hatched abroad, but they target U.S. soil and those of our
Al-Qaida is blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Mr. Tenet noted the United States had captured several members of al-Qaida's
leadership. But he said the spread of the organization's ideology ensured a
The CIA director said the steady growth of anti-U.S. sentiment among Sunni
extremists and what he called 'al-Qaida's destructive expertise, ensure that
a serious threat will remain for the foreseeable future, with or without al-Qaida
in the picture'.
Also testifying Tuesday was the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Robert Mueller, who said terrorists are intent on damaging the U.S. economy
and U.S. prestige. He said al-Qaida is intent on attacking U.S. transportation
systems, and would revisit targets missed in the past, including the White
House and the U.S. Capitol.
A hijacked plane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field on September 11,
2001 was believed to have been destined for the White House or the Capitol
Meanwhile, CIA Director Tenet came under fire from Democrats, who criticized
pre-war intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Tenet's former special adviser, David Kay, left his position as top U.S.
weapons inspector, telling Congress a month ago he does not believe weapons
of mass destruction will ever be found.
"When we send our military out and find nothing, and then Dr. Kay goes over
and finds nothing, for the intelligence community I guess you believe something
is going to materialize," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. "In
terms of weaponization and deployment, and then finding nothing, it is a pretty
bitter pill to swallow with respect to the value of intelligence."
Mr. Tenet defended the work of his intelligence analysts, and said the search
would continue for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "They believe what
they wrote. They did not do it cavalierly, and they did not do it frivolously,
and they believe they had a connective logic, and a tissue to get them to their
judgments. I believe you have to keep working and looking," he said. "I believe
you have to know whether this material may have slipped over a border or fallen
into somebody's hands, or used by insurgents against us at some point. We have
a responsibility to keep doing this."
Mr. Tenet returns to Capitol Hill Thursday, when he is to testify before
the Senate Armed Services Committee.