Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat
By MARK MAZZETTISeptember 24, 2006WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 â€” A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled â€œTrends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,â€™â€™ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
An opening section of the report, â€œIndicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,â€ cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology. The report â€œsays that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,â€ said one American intelligence official.
More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the documentâ€™s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.
Officials with knowledge of the intelligence estimate said it avoided specific judgments about the likelihood that terrorists would once again strike on United States soil. The relationship between the Iraq war and terrorism, and the question of whether the United States is safer, have been subjects of persistent debate since the war began in 2003.
Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at GuantÃ¡namo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.
Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said the White House â€œplayed no role in drafting or reviewing the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism.â€ The estimateâ€™s judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.
Documents released by the White House timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks emphasized the successes that the United States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al Qaeda. â€œSince the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe,â€ concludes one, a report titled â€œ9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges.â€ â€œWe have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism.â€
That document makes only passing mention of the impact the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement. â€œThe ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry,â€ it states. The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, â€œexacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.â€ ....