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Dec 26th, 2008

5-year Terrorism Threats Forecast for U.S.

Homeland Security: Beware instability in Middle East, Africa

In this Dec. 12, 2008 file photo,  Secretary of th...
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff (Photo credit: Matt Dunham / AP)

December 25, 2008

WASHINGTON — The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear [CBRN] attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political “turmoil,” the assessment said.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains “the highest priority at the federal level.” Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. …

Marked “for official use only,” the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences.

Worries about biological attack

Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems.

There could also be dire economic impacts caused by workers’ illnesses and deaths. Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such as anthrax.

“The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremist ideologies has not abated,” Chertoff said in his year-end address on Dec. 18. “This threat has not evaporated, and we can’t turn the page on it.” …

Terrorists will continue to try to evade U.S. border security measures and place operatives inside the mainland to carry out attacks, the 38-page assessment said. It also said that they may pose as refugees or asylum seekers or try to exploit foreign travel channels such as the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 34 countries to enter the U.S. without visas.

Long waits for immigration and more restrictive European refugee and asylum programs will cause more foreigners to try to enter the U.S. illegally. Increasing numbers of Iraqis are expected to migrate to the U.S. in the next five years; and refugees from Somalia and Sudan could increase because of conflicts in those countries, the assessment said.

Because there is a proposed cap of 12,000 refugees from Africa, officials expect more will try to enter the U.S. illegally as well. Officials predict the same scenario for refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

More radicals in U.S.

Intelligence officials predict the pool of radical Islamists within the U.S. will increase over the next five years due partly to the ease of online recruiting means. Officials foresee “a wave of young, self-identified Muslim ‘terrorist wannabes’ who aspire to carry out violent acts.” …

The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah does not have a known history of fomenting attacks inside the U.S., but that could change if there is some kind of “triggering” event, the Homeland assessment cautions.

A 2008 Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism assessment said that Hezbollah members based in the U.S. do local fundraising through charity projects and criminal activity, like money laundering, smuggling, drug trafficking, fraud and extortion, according to the homeland security assessment.

In addition, the cyber terror threat is expected to increase over the next five years, as hacking tools become more sophisticated and available.

Cyber attacks ahead?

Currently, Islamic terrorists, including al-Qaida, would like to conduct cyber attacks, but they lack the capability to do so, the assessment said. The large-scale attacks that are on al-Qaida’s wishlist – such as disrupting a major city’s water or power systems – require sophisticated cyber capabilities that the terrorist group does not possess.

But al-Qaida has the capability to hire sophisticated hackers to carry out these kinds of attacks, the assessment said. And federal officials believe that in the next three to five years, al-Qaida could direct or inspire cyber attacks that target the U.S. economy. …



Following are terrorist profiles developed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics:

The Personality Profile of Al-Qaida Leader Osama Bin Laden

“Bin Laden’s Brain”: The Abrasively Negativistic Personality of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri

The Personality Profile of September 11 Hijack Ringleader Mohamed Atta



Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Dec. 25, 2008, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – A U.S. soldier was killed by “indirect fire” — a phrase refering to mortar or rocket attacks — in Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD – A car bomb near a popular restaurant killed four people and wounded 25 in the Shi’ite district of Shula in northwestern Baghdad, police said.

MUQDADIYA – A suicide car bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol killed three people and wounded 14 in the town Muqdadiya, 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.



Well-Known American Surgeon Killed in Iraq
Mortar round explodes near his living quarters on Christmas Day

Dec. 26, 2008

TRENTON, N.J. — A prominent New Jersey doctor has been killed in Iraq, the Defense Department said Friday.

Maj. John P. Pryor was a well-known trauma surgeon at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. According to the Pentagon, Pryor died Christmas Day when a mortar round hit near his living quarters.

Pryor’s colleagues say they’re devastated by the loss of the New York City native. Pryor, who was 42, was a married father of three.

He wrote of his experiences as a surgeon confronting violence in Iraq and inner-city Philadelphia in articles published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post.

4 Responses to “New Terrorism Forecast for U.S.”
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