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US still lacks understanding of al Qaeda - report

US still lacks understanding of al Qaeda - report

Author: David Morgan
Publication: AlertNet.org
Date: September 20, 2006
URL: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N20208046.htm

[Note from the Hindu Vivek Kendra: To blame only the governments is a great disservice to the people. A much larger blame should be put on the intellectuals, whose rantings make the people in the government take irrational actions.]

Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration still does not fully understand the threat from al Qaeda, a congressional report released on Wednesday said.

"(Al Qaeda) still remains the single greatest threat ... Unfortunately, there are still gaps in our understanding of Islamist extremist groups, which leaves America vulnerable," the report said.

The document, "Al-Qaeda: The Many Faces of an Islamist Extremist Threat," was part of a series of reports released by the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on threats facing the United States.

Democrat members distanced themselves from them and accused the Republican majority of trying to frighten voters about such threats in advance of elections in November.

The latest report found "significant shortfalls" in the government's knowledge of both Islamist militancy abroad and the potential extremist threat at home and said it had failed to counter the rhetoric of anti-American Islamist extremists

The intelligence community has only a single office devoted to understanding political Islam -- the CIA's Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program, created in 2004 to study the issue, advise policymakers and engage academics worldwide, it said.

It said the effort should be expanded, and called on U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte to create similar operations at other agencies.

The CIA had no immediate comment on the report.

But the CIA program's former director, Emile Nakhleh, played down the problem and estimated only two to three percent of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims were politically active.

"Political Islam is not a threat," Nakhleh, who retired from the CIA in June, said in an interview posted on the web site of Harper's magazine. "The threat is if the people become disenchanted with the political process and democracy, and opt for violence."

Democrats on the committee said the al Qaeda report offered the public no new information about terrorism. "It is merely an assemblage of press clippings," all nine Democrats on the panel said in a minority views section.

A report by the committee on Iran in August, which the full panel never approved, ran into criticism not only from Democrats but from the International Atomic Energy Agency which called the document "outrageous and dishonest."

The committee is expected to release a report on North Korea later this week.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the panel's Republican chairman, said Democrats agreed months ago that the committee should produce unclassified reports to spur public debate on intelligence issues.

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