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Feb 13th, 2009

Intelligence Czar: Economy is Top Threat to U.S.

Video: National Security

Economic crisis trumps terror as global threat (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 12, 2009) — A new global threat assessment from intelligence officials says that the global economic meltdown — not terrorism — is security risk No. 1. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports. (02:00)

February 12, 2009

WASHINGTON — The economic crisis has trumped bullets and bombs in the intelligence agencies’ latest assessment of threats to the United States.

That shift is a reflection of the depth of the unfolding recession, but also of the progress made in the war against terrorists and the Obama administration’s more expansive definition of national security.

Sounding more like an economist than the war-fighting Navy commander he once was, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told a Senate panel Thursday that if the crisis lasts more than two years, it could cause some nations’ governments to collapse.

And a number of allies the United States depends on might no longer be able to afford to meet their own defense and humanitarian obligations, he said.

Blair said the financial meltdown, which started in the United States and quickly infected other countries, already has eroded confidence in American economic leadership and belief in free markets.

“Time is probably our greatest threat. The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee, as Congress prepares to vote Friday on a $789 billion stimulus package.

Blair’s 49-page statement opened with a detailed description of the economic crisis. It was a marked departure from threat briefings of years past, which focused first on traditional threats and battlefields like Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

“The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications,” he said in a written statement for the committee.

Progress against terrorists

One reason for the new ranking is progress made in the last year against al-Qaida. A year ago, al-Qaida was said to have reconstituted its operations in the lawless tribal area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But that has changed.

“Because of the pressure we and our allies have put on al-Qaida’s core leadership in Pakistan and the continued decline of al-Qaida’s most prominent regional affiliate in Iraq, al-Qaida today is less capable and effective than it was a year ago,” he said. …

Al-Qaida remains the greatest direct threat to the United States. He said the U.S. has little insight into al-Qaida’s planned attacks, and noted that recruitment of Westerners since 2006 for al-Qaida training in the tribal area makes detection of potential terrorists even more difficult.

The situation in Afghanistan, however, has deteriorated, particularly in the east, south and northwest, and the Taliban insurgency has expanded despite U.S. and international efforts to fight them, Blair acknowledged. …

Iran’s nuclear threat

He said Iran continues making progress toward having a nuclear weapon, possibly as soon as next year.

Iran last week launched its first small satellite with a multistage rocket, technology that could be used to make a long-range weapon. …

“Iran is clearly developing all its components of a deliverable nuclear weapon program,” Blair said.

That weapon is not inevitable, he said. It is possible the international community could put together a package of incentives and security guarantees that would dissuade Iran.

Blair also warned of the growing availability of biological weapons, and said terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in East Africa are likely in the next year.

Blair also reported the cascading threats that could flow from global climate change; struggles for energy resources, food and water; an exploding population; and the threat to U.S. information networks from hackers.

He said most attacks on U.S. networks originate from Internet addresses in Russia and China. …

Full story



Female Suicide Bomber Targets Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq

Dozens killed, at least 65 wounded during religious procession

February 13, 2009

BAGHDAD — A female suicide bomber attacked a procession of Shiite pilgrims — many of them women and children — south of Baghdad on Friday, killing 35 people and injuring 65 others, officials said. It was the third straight day of deadly bombings against Shiite pilgrims.

The bomber detonated her explosives among pilgrims walking to the holy city of Karbala for Shiite religious ceremonies, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. …

Attempt to rekindle sectarian conflict?

The attacks against the pilgrims appear to be part a Sunni extremist campaign to rekindle the sectarian conflict that nearly plunged the country into full-scale civil war two years ago.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt packed with nails among Shiite worshippers in Karbala near the revered Imam Hussein shrine, killing eight pilgrims and wounding more than 50.

A day earlier, at least 12 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in bombings in Baghdad that targeted Shiite pilgrims traveling to Karbala, 50 miles to the south. …

Attacks come despite strict security

About 40,000 Iraqi troops have been deployed along major routes to Karbala, and officials say security cameras have been installed near the Imam Hussein shrine to keep a lookout for possible threats. …

Last March, a female suicide bomber attacked Shiite worshippers in Karbala, killing at least 49. At least 85 people died in a suicide bombing in Karbala in March 2004. …

Also on Friday, an old mortar round killed two young boys — ages 10 and 15 — who were playing in the backyard of a farm house in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, said a police official. He spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Full story


Previous reports on the Mujahidaat (scroll down at link)

A woman accused of helping recruit dozens of female suicide bombers looked into the camera and described the process: trolling society for likely candidates, then patiently converting the women into deadly attackers. Samira Ahmed Jassim is suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers in Iraq. (Photo credit: Qassim Abdul-Zahra / AP)

2 Responses to “Economy Threatens U.S. Security”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Operation Moshtarak Has Begun Says:

    […] Economy Threatens U.S. National Security […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » U.S. Wary of Muslim Brotherhood Says:

    […] Economy Threatens U.S. National Security […]

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