The latest declassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released today. The NIE contains the unified opinion of all the nation’s intelligence gathering agencies about the domestic terror threat level and the status of organizations that could pose a threat through terrorism to the United States. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities.”

The NIE also found that al-Qaeda had reassembled since 9/11. “We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership. Although we have discovered only a handful of individuals in the United States with ties to al-Qa’ida senior leadership since 9/11, we judge that al-Qa’ida will intensify its efforts to put operatives here.”

It also refuted the theory that the U.S. is being kept safe from domestic attack by the war in Iraq. The NIE stated what many people already know, the war in Iraq is serving as a training ground for terrorists who could attack the U.S. “We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI); it’s most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.”

The document also warned that if the U.S. poses a threat to Iran, it could become a target for domestic attacks by Hizballah.  “We assess Lebanese Hizballah, which has conducted anti-US attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.” Notice that the document refers to al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Qaeda as two separate organizations. Supporters of the war tend to frame it as a battle against Bin Laden in Iraq, but this is not true. They are two different organizations, but they could easily have the common goal of attacking the United States in the next few years.

It seems like day by day the Bush rationale for staying in Iraq is being taken apart. If the NIE is to be believed, the Iraq war is not making America safer. In fact, the end result of this war could be a trained group of terrorists who want to attack the United States. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said, “This is a consequence of waging a misguided war in Iraq that should never have been authorized, and failing to seize the opportunity to do lasting harm to the extremist networks that pose a direct threat to our homeland. It is deeply troubling that more that nearly six years after 9/11, al Qaeda maintains a safe haven, an intact leadership, and the capability to plan further attacks. It is time to act to correct those mistakes, and the first step is to get out of Iraq, because you can’t win a war when you’re on the wrong battlefield.”

I think Obama put it quite well. We are on the wrong battlefield. The Bush administration made the critical mistake of getting bogged down in Iraq, at the expense of destroying al-Qaeda. However, I suspect that the president will treat this NIE the same he treats anyone or thing that differs in opinion with him. He will ignore it, and continue to keep doing whatever he wants to do. It doesn’t matter if the war in Iraq could make us less safe for the future. The White House will argue that they are fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, and a victory over al-Qaeda is a victory over Bin Laden. Even though this isn’t true, they need the American people to believe it or else there is no justification for this war. The truth is that the Iraq conflict has strengthened Bin Laden and made America less safe. As the U.S. is out making new enemies, an old enemy waits to attack. This is the present state of President Bush’s war on terror.

Text of the NIE
 

Obama comment 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics
  Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
 

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