U.S. not at higher risk
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte acknowledged Monday
that the jihad in Iraq is shaping a new generation of terrorist
operatives, but rejected characterizations stemming from a leaked
intelligence estimate that the United States is at a greater risk of
attack than it was in September 2001.
Rather, he said, the high-level assessment from the nation's top
analysts doesn't "really talk about" an increased threat inside the U.S.
"We are certainly more vigilant. We are better prepared," said
"We are safer. The threat to the homeland itself has ? if anything ?
been reduced since 9/11."
Negroponte's words came at a dinner at Washington's Woodrow Wilson
Center after the disclosure of a National Intelligence Estimate this
weekend, which gave new fervour to an election-year debate about how the
Iraq war has affected national security threats.
The report, Negroponte said, broadly addressed the global terrorist
threat, not just the impact of Iraq. Yet Negroponte acknowledged that
U.S. analysts believe "the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of
terrorist leaders and operatives."
The report distils the thinking of senior U.S. intelligence analysts
working throughout the nation's 16 spy agencies. Its conclusions are
considered to be the voice of the U.S. intelligence community.
The New York Times first reported Saturday that the highly classified
assessment finds that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has helped fuel a new
generation of extremists and that the overall terror threat has grown
since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 ? a conclusion at odds with
President Bush's assertions that the nation is safer.
But Bush administration officials, including Negroponte, are
contesting the media accounts, saying they describe only a portion of
the conclusions and therefore distort the analysts' findings on trends
in global terrorism.
The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee
urged the Bush administration Monday to declassify the intelligence