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Tenet: 'Threat from al Qaeda remains'

CIA Director George Tenet speaks to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- WASHINGTON (CNN) -- George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, discussed worldwide threats to the intelligence community in an appearance Tuesday before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Following is a transcript of his remarks.

TENET: Mr. Chairman, last year in the wake of the September 11 attack on our country, I focused my remarks on the clear and present danger posed by terrorists who seek to destroy who we are and what we stand for.

The national security environment that exists today is significantly more complex than a year ago. I can tell you that the threat from al Qaeda remains even though we have made important strides in the war on terrorism. Secretary of State Powell clearly outlined last week the continuing threats posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, its efforts to deceive U.N. inspectors and the safe haven that Baghdad has allowed for terrorists in Iraq.

North Korea's recent admissions that it has a highly enriched uranium program, intends to end the freeze on its plutonium production facilities and to withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty raise serious new challenges for the region and the world.

At the same time, we cannot lose sight of those national security challenges that, while not occupying space on front pages, demand a constant level of scrutiny.

Challenges such as the world's vast stretches of ungoverned areasólawless zones, veritable "no man's lands" like some areas along the Afghan-Pakistani borderówhere extremist movements find shelter and can win the breathing space to grow.

Challenges as to the number of societies and peoples excluded the benefits of an expanding global economy, where the daily lot is hunger, disease [and] displacement that produce large populations of disaffected youths who are prime recruits for our extremist foes.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, the United States last week raised the [color-coded terror threat alert] level. We did so because of the threat reporting from multiple sources with strong al Qaeda ties. The information we have points to plots aimed at targets on two fronts, in the United States and on the Arabian Peninsula. It points to plots timed to occur as early as the end of the Hajj, which occurs late this week, and it points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersal device as well as poisons and chemicals.

The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists or their associates. It is the most specific we have seen, and it is consistent with both our knowledge of al Qaeda's doctrine and our knowledge of plots in this network -- particularly its senior leadership -- has been working on for years.

The intelligence community is working directly and in real time with friendly services overseas and law enforcement colleagues here at home to disrupt and capture specific individuals who may be part of this plot.

Our information and knowledge is the result of important strides since 9/11 to enhance counterterrorism capabilities and share with law enforcement colleagues -- and they with us -- the results of disciplined operations, collection and analysis of events inside the United States and overseas.

Raising the threat level is important to our being as disruptive as we possibly can be. The enhanced security that results from a higher level threat can buy us more time to operate against the individual -- individuals who are plotting to do us harm -- and heightened vigilance generates traditional information and leads.

This latest reporting underscores the threat that the al Qaeda network continues to pose to the United States. The network is extensive and adaptable. It will take years of determined effort to unravel this and other ... networks and stamp them out.

Mr. Chairman, the intelligence and law enforcement communities aggressively continue to prosecute war on terrorism and are having success on many fronts. More than one-third of the top al Qaeda leadership identified before the war has been killed or captured, including the operations chief of the Persian Gulf area who planned the bombing of USS Cole and the key planner who was Muhammad Atta's confidante and conspirator, a major al Qaeda leader in Yemen and key operatives and facilitators in the Gulf area and other regions including South Asia and Southeast Asia.

The number of rounded-up al Qaeda detainees has now grown to over 3,000, up from 1,000 or so when I testified last year.

And the number of countries involved in these captures has almost doubled, to more than 100.

Not everyone arrested was a terrorist. Some have been released.

But the worldwide rousting of al Qaeda has definitely disrupted their operations, and we've obtained a trove of information we're using to prosecute the hunt still further.

The coalition against international terrorism is stronger, and we are reaping the benefits of unprecedented international cooperation. In particular, Muslim governments today better understand the threat al Qaeda poses to them and, day by day, have been increasing their support.

Ever since Pakistan's decision to sever ties with the Taliban, so critical to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom, Islamabad's close cooperation in the war on terrorism has resulted in the capture of key al Qaeda lieutenants and significant disruption of its regional network.

Jordan and Egypt have been courageous leaders in the war on terrorism. I can't say enough about what Jordan has done for this country in taking on this scourge.

A number of Gulf states like United Arab Emirates are denying terrorists financial safe haven, making it harder for al Qaeda to funnel money for operations.

Others in the Gulf are beginning to tackle the problem of charities that front for or fund terrorism. The Saudis are providing increasingly important support to our counterterrorism efforts, from arrests to sharing debriefing results.

Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia with majority Muslim populations have been active in arresting and detaining terrorist suspects.

And we mustn't forget Afghanistan, where the support of the new leadership is absolutely essential. al Qaeda's loss of Afghanistan, the death and capture of key personnel and its years spent mostly on the run have impaired its ability, complicated its command and control and disrupted its logistics.

That said, Mr. Chairman, the continuing threat remains clear. Al Qaeda is still dedicated to striking the U.S. homeland, and much of the information we've received in the past year revolves around that goal.

Even without an attack on the U.S. homeland, more than 600 people around the world were killed in acts of terror last year and 200 in al Qaeda-related attacks. Nineteen were U.S. citizens.

Al Qaeda or associated groups carried out a successful attack in Tunisia, and since October 2002, attacks in Mombasa, Bali, Kuwait and off Yemen against the French oil tanker Limburg. Most of these attacks bore such al Qaeda trademarks as entrenched surveillance, simultaneous strikes and suicide-delivered bombs.

Combined U.S. and allied efforts have thwarted a number of related attacks in the past year, including European poison plots. We identified and monitored and arrested Jose Padilla, an al Qaeda operative who was allegedly planning operations in the United States and was seeking to develop the so-called dirty bomb.

And along with Moroccan partners, we disrupted al Qaeda attacks against U.S. and British warships in the Straits of Gibraltar. Until al Qaeda finds an opportunity for the big attack, it will try to maintain its operational tempo by striking softer targets. And what I mean by softer, Mr. Chairman, are simply those targets al Qaeda planners may view as less well protected.

Al Qaeda has also sharpened its focus on our allies in Europe and on operations against Israeli and Jewish targets. Al Qaeda will try to adapt to changing circumstances as it regroups. It will secure base areas so that it can pause from flight and resume planning.

We place no limitations on our expectations on what al Qaeda might do to survive. We see disturbing signs that al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq.

In addition, we are concerned that al Qaeda continues to find refuge in the hinterlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda is also developing and refining new means of attack, including the use of surface-to-air missiles, poisons and air and surface and underwater methods to attack maritime targets.

If given the choice, al Qaeda terrorists will choose attacks that achieve multiple objectives, striking prominent landmarks, inflicting mass casualties, causing economic disruption and rallying support through shows of strength.

The bottom line here, Mr. Chairman, is that al Qaeda is living in the expectation of resuming the offensive. We know from events of September 11 that we can never again ignore a specific type of country, a country unable to control its own borders and internal territory, lacking the capacity to govern, educate its people or provide fundamental services. Such countries can, however, offer extremists a place to congregate in relative safety.

Al Qaeda is already a presence in many parts of the world, Mr. Chairman, and I'll stop my discussion on terrorism there, where I go on to a very careful discussion of our concerns about their acquisition of chemical and biological weapons and what the history shows.

I want to move to Iraq, sir, and then China and Iran, and I'll get out. There's a lot in my statement, and you can read it. Mr. Chairman, I would like to comment on Iraq, and I'll come back and answer Senator Rockefeller's questions as best I can.

Last week, Secretary Powell carefully reviewed for the U.N. Security Council the intelligence we have on Iraqi efforts to deceive U.N. inspectors, its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorism.

I do not plan to go into these matters in detail, but I will summarize some of the key points. Iraq has in place an active effort to deceive U.N. inspectors and deny them access. The effort is directed at the highest levels of the Iraqi regime.

Baghdad is giving clear directions to its operational forces to hide banned materials in their possession. Iraq's BW program includes mobile research and production facilities that will be difficult if not impossible for the inspectors to find.

Baghdad began this program in the mid '90s during a time when U.N. inspectors were in the country. Iraq has established a pattern of clandestine procurements destined to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. These procurements include but go well beyond the aluminum tubes that you have heard so much about. Iraq has recently flight tested missiles that violate the U.S. range limit of 150 kilometers. They have tested unmanned aerial vehicles to ranges that far exceed both what it declared to the United Nations and what is permitted under U.N. resolutions.

Iraq is harboring senior members of the terrorist network led by Abu Al Zarqawi, a close associate of al Qaeda. We know Zarqawi's network was behind the poison plots in Europe, and we discussed earlier as well, Secretary Powell discussed the assassination of a U.S. State Department employee in Jordan.

Iraq has, in the past, provided training in document forgery and bomb making to al Qaeda. It has also provided training in poisons and gases to two al Qaeda associates. One of these associates characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.

Mr. Chairman, this information is based on a solid foundation of intelligence. It comes to us from credible and reliable sources. Much of it is corroborated by multiple sources, and it is consistent with the pattern of denial and deception exhibited by Saddam Hussein over the past 12 years.

Mr. Chairman, on proliferation, it's important to talk about this for a few moments. We've entered a new world of proliferation. In the vanguard of this new world, we are knowledgeable about nonstate purveyors of WMD materials and technology. Such nonstate outlets are increasingly capable of providing technology and equipment that previously could only be supplied by countries with established capabilities.

This is taking place side by side with the continued weakening of the international nonproliferation consensus, ... battered by developments such as North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT and its open repudiation of other agreements.

The example of new nuclear states that seem able to deter threats from more powerful states simply by brandishing nuclear weaponry will resonate deeply among other countries that want to enter the nuclear weapons club.

Demand creates the market. The desire for nuclear weapons is on upsurge. Additional countries may decide to seek nuclear weapons as it becomes clear their neighbors and regional rivals are already doing so.

The domino theory of the 21st century may well be nuclear. With the assistance of proliferaters, a potentially wider range of countries may be able to develop nuclear weapons by leap-frogging the incremental pace of weapons programs in other countries.

My statement on proliferation is far more extensive, talking about developments of chemical and biological weapons, threats from ballistic missiles, land attack cruise missiles and UAVs.

I do want to talk briefly about North Korea. The recent behavior of North Korea regarding its longstanding nuclear weapons program makes apparent all of the dangers Pyongyang poses to its region and the world. This includes developing the capability to enrich uranium, ending the freeze on its plutonium production facilities and withdrawing from the nonproliferation treaty.

If this seems likely, Pyongyang moves on to reprocess spent fuel at the facilities where it recently abrogated the 1994 IAEA-monitored freeze. We assess it could recover sufficient plutonium for several additional weapons.

North Korea also continues to export complete ballistic missiles and production capability as [well] with related raw materials, components and expertise. Kim Jong Il's attempt this past year to parlay the North's nuclear weapons program into political leverage suggests he is trying to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with Washington, one that implicitly tolerates North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Although Kim calculates that the North's aid, trade and investment climate will never improve in the face of U.S. sanctions and perceived hostility, he's equally committed to retaining and enlarging his nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Mr. Chairman, I go through an interesting discussion of China, Russia and Iran. Perhaps we can go back to those during the question-and-answer period. I would note, the one area of the world that continues to worry us as [we] worry about all these other problems is South Asia, where we've averted a conflict but could soon return to one, and it's something that we may want to talk about that continues to bear careful scrutiny.

The statement goes through a number of transnational threats, Mr. Chairman, and I want to talk about something untraditional. You know, we recently published ... on AIDS. I want to talk about HIV/AIDS because it has national security implications beyond health implications.

This pandemic continues unabated, and last year, more than 3 million people died of AIDS-related causes. More than 40 million people are infected now, and southern African has the greatest concentration of these cases.

That said, the intelligence community recently projected that by 2010, we may see as many as 100 million HIV-infected people outside of Africa. China will have about 15 million cases, and India, 20 [million] to 25 million cases. And cases are on the rise in Russia as well.

The national security dimension of the virus is plain. It can undermine economic growth, exacerbate social tensions, diminish military preparedness, create huge social welfare costs and further weaken beleaguered states, and the virus respects no border.

We rarely talk about Africa, Mr. Chairman, but it's important. Sub-Saharan Africa's chronic instability will demand U.S. attention. Africa's lack of democratic institutionalization combined with its pervasive ethnic rifts and deep corruption render most of the 48 countries vulnerable to crises that can be costly in human lives and economic growth.

The Cote d'Ivoire is collapsing, and its crash will be felt throughout the region where neighboring economies are at risk from the falloff in trade and from refugees fleeing violence.

Mr. Chairman, I'll end my statement there. There's a discussion about Venezuela and Colombia we may want to pursue in the questions and answers. And I thank you for your patience.

And I've set a new standard for not reading my whole statement, sir.

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