Middle East Quarterly
George J. Tenet delivered testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about "The Worldwide Threat in 2000: Global Realities of Our National Security" on February 2, 2000. This, the formal annual statement of the Director of Central Intelligence (the person who heads the CIA) to congress, is the most important public statement made by the intelligence community. A lot of care goes into crafting the document, with each word debated and weighed. Below is the portion of the statement dealing with terrorism; note that it deals exclusively with Middle Eastern and Muslim groups. The passage about "an intricate web of alliances among Sunni extremists worldwide" has attracted particular attention.
Let me now turn to another threat with worldwide reach—terrorism.
Since July 1998, working with foreign governments worldwide, we have helped to render more than two dozen terrorists to justice. More than half were associates of Usama Bin Ladin's Al-Qa'ida organization. These renditions have shattered terrorist cells and networks, thwarted terrorist plans, and in some cases even prevented attacks from occurring.
Although 1999 did not witness the dramatic terrorist attacks that punctuated 1998, our profile in the world and thus our attraction as a terrorist target will not diminish any time soon.
We are learning more about the perpetrators every day, Mr. Chairman, and I can tell you that they are a diverse lot motivated by many causes.
Usama Bin Ladin is still foremost among these terrorists, because of the immediacy and seriousness of the threat he poses. Everything we have learned recently confirms our conviction that he wants to strike further blows against America. Despite some well-publicized disruptions, we believe he could still strike without additional warning. Indeed, Usama Bin Ladin's organization and other terrorist groups are placing increased emphasis on developing surrogates to carry out attacks in an effort to avoid detection.
For example, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) is linked closely to Bin Ladin's organization and has operatives located around the world-including in Europe, Yemen, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. And, there is now an intricate web of alliances among Sunni extremists worldwide, including North Africans, radical Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Central Asians.
Some of these terrorists are actively sponsored by national governments that harbor great antipathy toward the United States. Iran, for one, remains the most active state sponsor. Although we have seen some moderating trends in Iranian domestic policy and even some public criticism of the security apparatus, the fact remains that the use of terrorism as a political tool by official Iranian organs has not changed since President Khatami took office in August 1997.
Mr. Chairman, we remain concerned that terrorist groups worldwide continue to explore how rapidly evolving and spreading technologies might enhance the lethality of their operations. Although terrorists we've preempted still appear to be relying on conventional weapons, we know that a number of these groups are seeking chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) agents. We are aware of several instances in which terrorists have contemplated using these materials.
• Among them is Bin Ladin, who has shown a strong interest in chemical weapons. His operatives have trained to conduct attacks with toxic chemicals or biological toxins.
• HAMAS is also pursuing a capability to conduct attacks with toxic chemicals.
Terrorists also are embracing the opportunities offered by recent leaps in information technology. To a greater and greater degree, terrorist groups, including Hizballah, HAMAS, the Abu Nidal organization, and Bin Ladin's al Qa'ida organization are using computerized files, e-mail, and encryption to support their operations.
Mr. Chairman, to sum up this part of my briefing, we have had our share of successes, but I must be frank in saying that this has only succeeded in buying time against an increasingly dangerous threat. The difficulty in destroying this threat lies in the fact that our efforts will not be enough to overcome the fundamental causes of the phenomenon-poverty, alienation, disaffection, and ethnic hatreds deeply rooted in history. In the meantime, constant vigilance and timely intelligence are our best weapons.
Subscribe to the MEF Mailing List
Latest Press Releases
Latest MEQ Articles