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CIA chief warns of possible al Qaeda attack in U.S.

Powell: New bin Laden message on Iraq

CIA Director George Tenet addresses the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
CIA Director George Tenet addresses the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

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CNN's Kelli Arena reports on the U.S. intelligence chiefs' congressional testimony on terror threats (February 12)
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CIA Director George Tenet tells Senate panel that reports point to threats against U.S., Arabian peninsula (February 11)
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The Bali arrests, as well as arrests in Malaysia and Singapore, have led authorities to a small, secluded school in Malaysia. CNN's Maria Ressa reports (February 11)
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• Interactive: The hunt for al Qaeda
• Audio slide show: Bin Laden's audio message, 2/03
• Special report: Terror on tape
• Special report: War against terror
• Transcript: Tenet 
• Transcript: Mueller 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence indicates al Qaeda is planning attacks in the United States and the Arabian Peninsula, CIA Director George Tenet told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in a separate Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said a new message has surfaced, believed to be Osama bin Laden claiming a "partnership with Iraq."

Powell said he reviewed a transcript of the message, which he said was to air on the Al-Jazeera Arab news satellite television channel, which operates out of Qatar. "(Bin Laden) speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq," Powell said. (Full story)

Asked for reaction to Powell's claim, Al-Jazeera denied it had such a message from bin Laden, saying news of it was a rumor that has been circulating for several weeks.

During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tenet said the reports of planned attacks are "the most specific we have seen" and are consistent with previous al Qaeda plots.

"This is not idle chatter on the part of the terrorists," he said, adding the number of messages being sent to and by terrorists is the highest since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

U.S. officials Friday raised the color-coded terrorist threat level to orange -- or high -- from yellow, or elevated. Tenet said al Qaeda is "still dedicated to striking the U.S. homeland."

Tenet said the chatter "points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersion device as well as poisons and chemicals," he said, referring to devices similar to the so-call "dirty bomb."

FBI Director Robert Mueller also testified at the hearing.

"The enemies we face are resourceful, merciless and fanatically committed to inflicting massive damage on our homeland, which they regard as a bastion of evil," Mueller said. "In this war, there can be no compromise or negotiated settlement."

"FBI investigations have revealed Islamic militants in the United States, and we strongly suspect that several hundred of these extremists are linked to al Qaeda," Mueller said. "Their support structure, however, is sufficiently well developed that one or more groups could be mobilized by al Qaeda to carry out operations in the United States homeland."

start quoteFBI investigations have revealed Islamic militants in the United States, and we strongly suspect that several hundred of these extremists are linked to al Qaeda.end quote
-- FBI Director Robert Mueller

Comments from the directors come as the United States threatened military action against Iraq and North Korea has threatened to resume its nuclear program.

"We see disturbing signs that al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq," Tenet said. "In addition we are concerned that al Qaeda continues to find refuge in the hinterlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Tenet said two dozen members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he called "indistinguishable" from al Qaeda, and two senior planners have been "operating freely" in Baghdad.

"There is a presence in Baghdad," Tenet said.

Tenet and Mueller also outlined progress made in the war against terror.

• During the past 17 months, Mueller said the FBI has charged 197 suspected terrorists with crimes, 99 of whom have been convicted to date.

• The FBI has damaged terrorist networks and disrupted terrorist related activities in Portland, Oregon; Buffalo, New York; Seattle, Washington; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois, and Florida, Mueller said.

• FBI has frozen $113 million from 62 organizations with suspected terrorist ties has conducted 730 investigations, 23 of which have resulted in convictions, Mueller said.

• Tenet said a third of al Qaeda leadership had been killed or captured since the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

• Tenet said the number of al Qaeda members detained by the United States increased during the past year from 1,000 to 3,000.

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