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IN THE NEWS - Intelligence Report Says al-Qaida Remains Top Threat to US Security

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

A new report says al-Qaida is still, and will remain, the major threat to the United

Firemen near the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York. Al Qaida terrorists hijacked two passenger airplanes and crashed them into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
Firemen near the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York. Al Qaida terrorists hijacked two passenger airplanes and crashed them into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

States. The report is known as a National Intelligence Estimate. Officials this week released only what are called the key judgments of the sixteen American intelligence agencies.

The organization led by Osama bin Laden is said to have re-established itself as a center of worldwide Islamic terrorism. The report says al-Qaida operates from the safety of Pakistan's tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

An estimate last year said al-Qaida was becoming less organized. But Ted Gistaro, a national intelligence officer, says that appears to have changed. He says al-Qaida has become more organized again and seeks to extend its reach, especially with the group called al-Qaida in Iraq.

The report says al-Qaida is expected to intensify efforts to put operatives in the United States. But it also says increased worldwide efforts to fight terrorism have restricted the group's ability to attack the United States homeland again. It says terrorist groups now see the country as a harder target to strike than on September eleventh, two thousand one.

President Bush, commenting on the report, said al-Qaida is strong today, but not nearly as strong as before the September eleventh attacks. He says the reason why is because of efforts, in his words, "to defeat them where we find them."

Peter Zeihan is with Stratfor, a private intelligence company in Texas. He agrees that al-Qaida leaders want to launch another major attack in the United States. But he believes they lack the ability.

Another finding is that Hezbollah in Lebanon may be more likely to consider attacking the United States over the next three years. The report says this is possible if it sees the United States as a direct threat to the group or Iran.

In Congress, lawmakers from both parties used the intelligence estimate to support their arguments over Iraq war policy. Republicans said the report shows the continued need to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. Democrats said it shows the war has created new terrorists while permitting al-Qaida to re-organize in Pakistan.

On Wednesday, Republican senators blocked an attempt to withdraw troops from Iraq by April. This followed an all-night debate called by Democratic leaders to persuade more Republicans to support it.

Lawmakers are expected to return to the Iraq debate in September. Congress wants the American ambassador and top commander in Iraq to report then on the progress of the recent troop increase.

For Americans, not all safety concerns involve terrorism. There is growing debate about the safety of imported goods. Attention has centered on China after recalls of a number of products made there.

On Wednesday, President Bush directed a group of cabinet members to look for ways to make sure food and other imports are safe. They have sixty days, possibly longer, to identify steps that can be taken without adding new costs.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.

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