Intelligence report warns of Al Qaeda threats to attack within US

Al Qaeda is improving its ability to attack within the United States, according to a new report from national intelligence.

Director of US national intelligence, Michael McConnell, firmly said on Tuesday that Al Qaeda is improving its ability to attack within the United States by recruiting and training new operatives. McConnell also said that an Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq was immediately starting to export militants to other countries.

The warning appeared to echo those contained in a National Intelligence Estimate released last July and to be based in part on Al Qaeda’s hasty growing ability to use its regenerated presence in the tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan to plan attacks elsewhere.

The official report noted that there were no major terrorist attacks in much of the world over the past year, and suggested that Al Qaeda’s global image was “beginning to lose some of its lusters.”

The National Intelligence Estimate last year concluded that Iran had probably suspended its nuclear weapons development in the fall of 2003. That finding appeared to undercut American diplomatic efforts to press Iran on the nuclear issue. However, Mr. McConnell said that Iran is still concerned about its intentions as well as the future development of nuclear weapons.

On North Korea, intelligence analysts judge “with at least moderate confidence” that the regime in Pyongyang continues its uranium enrichment efforts today. Nevertheless, it said that the North “probably views its capabilities as being more for deterrence and coercive diplomacy than for war-fighting, and would consider using nuclear weapons only under certain narrow circumstances.”

In recent weeks, fresh concerns about the threat posed by Al Qaeda have prompted senior Bush administration officials to regularly travel to Pakistan to seek approval for more aggressive American military action against militants based in the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.