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Al-Qaida Leadership Seen as Depleted but Still a Danger
U.S. intelligence director sees terrorist group as inciting other groups to attack


March 01, 2006

Washington - Al-Qaida's leadership has been depleted significantly but its top priority remains the planning and execution of attacks within the United States, against U.S. interests overseas and against U.S. allies, members of the intelligence community told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In February 28 testimony before the committee, John Negroponte, U.S. director of national intelligence, joined by General Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence, and Lieutenant General Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) outlined the current state of the global war against terrorism.



Al-Qaida and other organizations that make up the "global jihadist" movement remain the most significant threat to U.S. national security, the officials said.

Maples said that al-Qaida now pursues a "decentralized" track, by encouraging other extremist groups, such as Jemmah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia, the Group for Salafist Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in Africa, Ansar al-Islam in Iraq and others.

The panelists agreed that even though conventional explosives remain the terrorists' weapons of choice, many remain interested in acquiring chemical, biological and nuclear weapons for use in future attacks.

"In fact, intelligence reporting indicates that nearly 40 terrorist organizations, insurgencies, or cults have used, possessed, or expressed an interest in chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents or weapons," Negroponte said in his prepared statement.


Maples observed that terrorists are making sophisticated use of media and the Internet to recruit and propagandize.

"Al-Qaida publicized these events with an aggressive propaganda campaign featuring video and audio tapes from senior al-Qaida leadership. Al-Qaida and associated jihadist groups utilize Internet technology for communications and propaganda," Maples said.

Maples also said use of the Internet by terrorists for command and control of terrorist cells is increasing.

"Technology, including e-mail, password-protected chat rooms, and Web sites, is used to communicate and reinforce jihadist ideology and promote anti-U.S. sentiment," he said.

Improved security, intelligence and military cooperation with its allies, is one component of America's strategy to defeat al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, said the panelists.

Negroponte praised Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France and the many other nations the United States claims as allies in the global war against terrorism.

The panelists added that another component is the longer-term strategy to support nations as they work towards building democracies and free markets, which will solve many ingrained social problems that lead to terrorism.

Maples also said "favorable opinions of the U.S. in many Muslim states remain low and are susceptible to changing events."

Negroponte placed terrorism in context of a wider dialogue within the Muslim world over future political and economic development.

"Most Muslims reject the extremists' message, and as they embrace democracy, they will be able to couple it with their beliefs to build a better future," Negroponte said.

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