Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee that anti-terrorism efforts since Sept. 11 had lead to the arrest of nearly 1,000 al-Qaida operatives in more than 60 nations. Despite these efforts, Tenet warned, “Al-Qaida has not yet been destroyed.
“Al-Qaida leaders still at large are working to reconstitute the organization and resume its terrorist operations,” he said. “We must be prepared for a long war, and we must not falter.”
The CIA chief said his agency had information that al-Qaida may be ready to strike U.S. interests overseas.
“Al-Qaida also has plans to strike against U.S. and allied targets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia,” Tenet said in his first public appearance before Congress since the Sept. 11 attacks. “American diplomatic and military installations are at high risk — especially in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey but across the rest of the world as well.”
Tenet also warned that terrorists may continue to target large public events in the U.S.
“High-profile events such as the Olympics or last weekend’s Super Bowl also fit the terrorists’ interests in striking another blow within the United States that would command worldwide media attention,” Tenet told the senators.
Asked about the fate of Osama bin Laden, Tenet said he did not know whether the Saudi fugitive was still alive, but added he believes Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is.
The intelligence chief also faced questions regarding the lack of information ahead of the September attacks that killed more than 3,000 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Tenet said the CIA had known that terrorists might be planning attacks inside the U.S. last summer, but admitted the agency had no specific knowledge pointing to the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon before they happened.
Iraq, Iran and North Korea
The CIA director also discussed the three countries President Bush called an “axis of evil” during last week’s State of the Union: Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
He accused Iraq of continuing its efforts to obtain biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
“We believe Saddam Hussein never abandoned his nuclear weapons program,” Tenet said.
He also said the Iraqi government may have had “tactical” discussions with bin Laden and could potentially aid further terrorist attacks in the future.
Tenet also said Iran remained “a serious concern because of its across the board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities.”
The intelligence chief reiterated the claim that Iran has allowed associates of bin Laden to escape into their territory.
“Tehran has also failed to move decisively against al-Qaida members who have relocated to Iran from Afghanistan,” he said.
He also criticized North Korea for its continued development of longer range missiles and its role in proliferating weapons to potential enemies of the U.S.