Status Lowered, But Threat Remains High
Vol: 17 Issue: 28 Friday, February 28, 2003
The US Department of Homeland Security lowered the national terror alert status from “High” to “Elevated” but says there is still a “continuing serious threat of terrorist attacks on American soil”. The status change comes at the same time that the United States has identified Hamas and Hezbollah as a probable third-party terror agents for Saddam Hussein.
According to one US official, the CIA estimated there is better than an 85 percent chance that Saddam would use proxy terrorists to strike the United States and that the likelihood would increase after any US military action were to begin.
The exercise was conducted several months ago and the analysts stated in a report that Saddam could order a terrorist attack against the United States before US forces start operations to oust him.
The analysis stated that if Saddam felt the end of his regime is inevitable that he could strike out against us using a third party, the second official said. The first official cited the assessment as saying that the pre-emptive terrorist attack could involve the use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
The formula used by the analysts to reach the conclusion involved what officials called a Bayesian analysis of Saddam s options. The analytical model is derived from the statistical-probability theory of 18th-century mathematician Thomas Bayes.
US intelligence officials said there have been recent reports that Saddam would try to use Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, to conduct operations in the United States and against the United States abroad. The reports said that the two groups could carry out strikes in support of Iraq after the start of military operations, which could begin as early as mid-March, the officials said.
The intelligence assessment coincided with President Bush s decision announced Feb. 7 to raise the terrorism-alert status from yellow, heightened, to orange, or high danger of terrorist attackSaddam could order a terrorist attack against the United States before US forces start operations to oust him.
A classified F.B.I. intelligence bulletin was issued on Wednesday to state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, warned the authorities to be on the alert for lone terrorists who are not directed by organizations like al Qaeda.
“Lone extremists represent an ongoing terrorist threat in the United States,” the bulletin said. “Lone extremists may operate independently or on the fringes of established extremist groups, either alone or with one or two accomplices.”
Senior administration officials said that there was still an alarming level of intelligence suggesting the possibility of a new domestic attack by Al Qaeda’s terror network, and that the alert would almost certainly return to “high risk,” or orange, in the days before we attack.
They said the decision to lower the threat level had followed days of vigorous debate in which senior law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts argued that it should not be reduced. Such a move, it was argued, might lead to dangerous complacency at a moment when the risk was still grave.
But finally, the officials said, a consensus was reached today that the alert should be lowered, given a drop in the recent level of terrorist communications, or “chatter,” and the two weeks that had passed without incident since the end of the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage season. American intelligence and law enforcement officials had previously reported that there was evidence suggesting that Al Qaeda had timed new attacks to the hajj, which concluded on Feb. 13.
The US is dropping leaflets on Iraq warning the Iraqis not to let Saddam escape. This pretty well establishes America’s intention to either kill or capture Saddam. For that reason alone, Saddam has no reason not to use whatever weapons he has at his disposal, either on the battlefield or through terror strikes in the United States. “It’s a priority. We can’t have a repeat of Afghanistan,” a U.S. military official told the New York Post. He was referring to the escape of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
It’s quite a change from just a decade ago, when the biggest challenge facing America was what to do with the surplus money, or ‘peace dividend’ we were allegedly going to have left over following the end of the Cold War.
Peace and safety was breaking out all over; the Berlin Wall fell, the US began downsizing the military, happy days were here again.
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)