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Terrorists inevitably will acquire nukes: Rumsfeld

Terrorists inevitably will acquire nukes: Rumsfeld

Author: John J Lumpkin (AP)
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 22, 2002
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/nonfram/220502/dlfor16.asp

Terrorists are sure to eventually acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, US Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld warned Congress on Tuesday.

Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea are developing such weapons of mass destruction and will supply them to terrorists to whom they already are linked, Rumsfeld said.

"They (terrorists) inevitably will get their hands on them and they will not hesitate to use them,'' Rumsfeld told a Senate subcommittee in Congress.

Meanwhile, Tom Ridge, who heads the White House's office of domestic security, said new terror warnings have not prompted US officials to raise the United States' nationwide alert status because the intelligence on possible attacks is too vague.

Rumsfeld declined to discuss specific terrorist threats, saying the government sees hundreds a day. As many as 90 percent of them are designed simply to test the government's response. "They jerk us around, try to jerk us around, and test us," Rumsfeld said.

General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while the war on terror has hurt Al-Qaeda, the terrorist network remains a threat.

"Just like a wounded animal is the most dangerous, they (Al-Qaeda) still pose a threat to our armed forces," Myers said.

At the White House briefing, press secretary Ari Fleischer said he hadn't heard Rumsfeld's exact words, but that "the secretary knows what the president knows, and that is that we're in the middle of a war to protect the country and diminish the ability of people who would do us harm from getting their hands on such weapons."

Ridge said predictions that terrorists may target unnamed apartment buildings, for example, were not enough to change the nation's security alert from "yellow" -- the third-highest of five stages.

"It wasn't actionable in the sense that we're going to change a national level of awareness, but it was informational," Ridge said.

Faced with criticism for belatedly releasing terrorist information it had before the Sept 11 attacks, the administration of President George W Bush may now routinely release intelligence information, Ridge said.

"We have two choices: You can either keep it to yourselves or you can share it," Ridge said. "And under the circumstances, depending on the source and the specificity and a few other circumstances and conditions, we may share it."

Ridge was the latest member of the Bush administration to predict that more terror attacks on Americans are "not a matter of 'if', but 'when."'

The predictions are based in part on new intelligence suggesting plotting by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network has been on the rise over the past few weeks, said a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The latest information shows an increase in communications and other activity by Al-Qaeda over the past few weeks, suggesting new attacks may be in the works, said the official.

But this sort of increase in volume has happened several times before -- even since Sept 11.

The blunt new warnings also are designed to give Americans better notice and protect Bush against second guessing in the event of another attack, said a senior administration official with knowledge of US intelligence and White House strategy.

Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the intelligence "chatter" was coming from Mideast groups such as Hezbollah and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, in addition to Al-Qaeda.

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