Terror threat a ‘source of concern’
WASHINGTON – The White House expressed concern Sunday about recent indications of a heightened terrorist threat and said it points to a greater need to promote the benefits of democracy.”It’s a source of concern. And we’re responding to it,” said Stephen Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser. “It’s a good reminder that the struggle against terrorism is going to be with us for a long time.””We need to also, at the same time, engage in the battle of ideas, the president talking about the vision of democracy versus a vision of despair,” Hadley added. “And we need to get the country in a position where it has the tools it needs to deal with the terrorist threat.”A new U.S. intelligence assessment being released to Congress this week is expected to say that al-Qaida is stepping up its efforts to sneak terrorist operatives into the United States and has acquired most of the capabilities it needs to strike here.The National Intelligence Estimate is expected to point in particular to al-Qaida’s growing ability to use its base along the Pakistan-Afghan border to launch and inspire attacks.Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week said he had a “gut feeling” that the nation faced a higher risk of attack this summer. Without offering specifics, he has pointed to several factors: al-Qaida’s increased freedom to train in South Asia; a flurry of public statements from the network’s leadership; a history of summertime attacks; and a broader range of attacks in North Africa and Europe and homegrown terrorism increasing in Europe.A new al-Qaida videotape posted Sunday on a militant Web site featured a short, undated clip of a weary-looking Osama bin Laden praising martyrdom. The bin Laden clip, which lasted less than a minute, was part of a 40-minute video featuring purported al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan paying tribute to fellow militants who have been killed in the country.Hadley said Sunday he was troubled by suicide bombings over the weekend in Pakistan as well as reports that militants in the Afghan border region were pulling out of a peace pact with Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.”We have seen in the northwest territories in Pakistan, Taliban pooling, planning and training,” Hadley said. “It has not worked the way he wanted. It has not worked the way we wanted.””And one of things he is now doing is moving more troops in. We are supporting that effort in order to get control of the situation,” he said.Still, Hadley said al-Qaida is “not the organization it was before 9/11,” citing the Bush administration’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.”At this point, the operational activity we are seeing and the planning is in areas – we have taken the fight effectively to where al-Qaida is, in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and northwest Pakistan,” Hadley said. “In the short run, we need to disrupt their operations, take the fight to them, where they live, so that we don’t have to defend here at home.”Hadley spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and “Late Edition” on CNN.