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Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat By MARK MAZZETTI
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 24, 2006
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/world/middleeast/24terror.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

      Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

      By MARK MAZZETTI
      Published: September 24, 2006

      WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism
      trends by American intelligence agencies has found
      that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has
      helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism
      and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since
      the Sept. 11 attacks.

      The classified National Intelligence Estimate
      attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in
      fueling radicalism than that presented either in
      recent White House documents or in a report released
      Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee,
      according to several officials in Washington involved
      in preparing the assessment or who have read the final
      document.

      The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the
      first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United
      States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began,
      and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate
      spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in
      Global Terrorism: Implications for the United
      States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather
      than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread
      across the globe.

      An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the
      Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the
      Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad
      ideology.

      The report “says that the Iraq war has made the
      overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American
      intelligence official.

      More than a dozen United States government officials
      and outside experts were interviewed for this article,
      and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because
      they were discussing a classified intelligence
      document. The officials included employees of several
      government agencies, and both supporters and critics
      of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed
      had either seen the final version of the document or
      participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These
      officials discussed some of the document’s general
      conclusions but not details, which remain highly
      classified.

      Officials with knowledge of the intelligence estimate
      said it avoided specific judgments about the
      likelihood that terrorists would once again strike on
      United States soil. The relationship between the Iraq
      war and terrorism, and the question of whether the
      United States is safer, have been subjects of
      persistent debate since the war began in 2003.

      National Intelligence Estimates are the most
      authoritative documents that the intelligence
      community produces on a specific national security
      issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte,
      director of national intelligence. Their conclusions
      are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by
      all of the spy agencies.

      Analysts began working on the estimate in 2004, but it
      was not finalized until this year. Part of the reason
      was that some government officials were unhappy with
      the structure and focus of earlier versions of the
      document, according to officials involved in the
      discussion.

      Previous drafts described actions by the United States
      government that were determined to have stoked the
      jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of
      prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison
      abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the
      intelligence estimate should be more focused on
      specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is
      unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence
      estimate criticizes individual policies of the United
      States, but intelligence officials involved in
      preparing the document said its conclusions were not
      softened or massaged for political purposes.

      Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said the
      White House “played no role in drafting or reviewing
      the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence
      Estimate on terrorism.” The estimate’s judgments
      confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence
      Council report completed in January 2003, two months
      before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the
      approaching war had the potential to increase support
      for political Islam worldwide and could increase
      support for some terrorist objectives.

      Documents released by the White House timed to
      coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11
      attacks emphasized the successes that the United
      States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al
      Qaeda.

      “Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies
      are safer, but we are not yet safe,” concludes one, a
      report titled “9/11 Five Years Later: Success and
      Challenges.” “We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda
      and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived
      legitimacy of terrorism.”

      That document makes only passing mention of the impact
      the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement.
      “The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been
      twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry,” it
      states.

      The report mentions the possibility that Islamic
      militants who fought in Iraq could return to their
      home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or
      fomenting radical ideologies.”

      On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House
      Intelligence Committee released a more ominous report
      about the terrorist threat. That assessment, based
      entirely on unclassified documents, details a growing
      jihad movement and says, “Al Qaeda leaders wait
      patiently for the right opportunity to attack.”

      The new National Intelligence Estimate was overseen by
      David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for
      transnational threats, who commissioned it in 2004
      after he took up his post at the National Intelligence
      Council. Mr. Low declined to be interviewed for this
      article.

      The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic
      movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives
      and affiliated groups to include a new class of
      “self-generating” cells inspired by Al Qaeda’s
      leadership but without any direct connection to Osama
      bin Laden or his top lieutenants.

      It also examines how the Internet has helped spread
      jihadist ideology, and how cyberspace has become a
      haven for terrorist operatives who no longer have
      geographical refuges in countries like Afghanistan.

      In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council
      released a study concluding that Iraq had become the
      primary training ground for the next generation of
      terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might
      ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in
      the constellation of the global jihad leadership.

      But the new intelligence estimate is the first report
      since the war began to present a comprehensive picture
      about the trends in global terrorism.

      In recent months, some senior American intelligence
      officials have offered glimpses into the estimate’s
      conclusions in public speeches.

      “New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by
      little more than their anti-Western agendas, are
      increasingly likely to emerge,” said Gen. Michael V.
      Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the
      month that the new estimate was completed. “If this
      trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and
      abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to
      increasing attacks worldwide,” said the general, who
      was then Mr. Negroponte’s top deputy and is now
      director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

      For more than two years, there has been tension
      between the Bush administration and American spy
      agencies over the violence in Iraq and the prospects
      for a stable democracy in the country. Some
      intelligence officials have said the White House has
      consistently presented a more optimistic picture of
      the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence
      reports from the field.

      Spy agencies usually produce several national
      intelligence estimates each year on a variety of
      subjects. The most controversial of these in recent
      years was an October 2002 document assessing Iraq’s
      illicit weapons programs. Several government
      investigations have discredited that report, and the
      intelligence community is overhauling how it analyzes
      data, largely as a result of those investigations.

      The broad judgments of the new intelligence estimate
      are consistent with assessments of global terrorist
      threats by American allies and independent terrorism
      experts.

      The panel investigating the London terrorist bombings
      of July 2005 reported in May that the leaders of
      Britain’s domestic and international intelligence
      services, MI5 and MI6, “emphasized to the committee
      the growing scale of the Islamist terrorist threat.”

      More recently, the Council on Global Terrorism, an
      independent research group of respected terrorism
      experts, assigned a grade of “D+” to United States
      efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic
      extremism. The council concluded that “there is every
      sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is
      spreading rather than shrinking.”
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