ABC's Brian Ross in "The Blotter":
Intelligence analysts and the former White House counterterror official describe as "pure pablum" the unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate released today on terror threats to the United States.
"Nothing in here is going to surprise anybody who's been following this," said one senior U.S. intelligence official.
"It's more about what it doesn't say than what it does say," says Richard Clarke, the former White House official who is now an ABC News consultant.
"What is left out of the version released publicly is the explicit statement that al Qaeda is back and has operations underway," Clarke says.
The 2006 version of the National Intelligence Estimate claimed U.S. efforts had "seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa'ida and disrupted its operations."
"That's no longer the case in 2007, and you have to read between the lines to understand how we have lost ground," Clarke says.[...]
"Given that there was no al Qaeda in Iraq until we invaded there," says Clarke, "it's hard not to draw the conclusion that going to Iraq has created a further threat to the United States."
Read the declassified NIE report yourself - link (pdf).
White House officials continue to display their utter stupidity with respect to who our enemies are and where they are located.
Today in an interview with NPR, Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend argued that the NIE's findings strengthen the administration's argument to stay the course. "Al Qaeda's resources are focused in Iraq because that's where we are capturing and killing them every single day, so it drains their resources there," she said. "[T]hey are very much tied down because we are keeping them tied down fighting them in Iraq."
NPR host Steve Inskeep challenged Townsend, pointing out that al Qaeda had "no capability in Iraq before the war." Townsend refused to answer the question, stating, "I don't know -- I wasn't at that briefing." She then added, "I'm going to rely on the intelligence community. ... I would refer you to them." [audio link]
It is widely known that al Qaeda was not operating in Iraq before 9/11. The Senate Intelligence Committee found that Saddam "did not trust al-Qa'ida or any other radical Islamist group and did not want to cooperate with them."
Rather than tying down and draining al Qaeda's resources in Iraq as Townsend said, the war has lured the the network to that country. The last NIE found that the "Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists," "shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives." Additionally, a new government threat assessment concludes that "Al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since the summer of 2001," and with strengthened capabilities to attack the United States.
If the White House doesn't know who the enemy is, and didn't know where they were prior to the Iraq invasion, who in their right mind would think they know who and where the enemy is tomorrow?
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