A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.Although the AP excerpt above was pulled from the Sun-Times website, the story in the print edition of the S-T was just three paragraphs long. By contrast, the story about the dangers of using an iPod in a thunderstorm -- also on page 31 -- merited four paragraphs.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document -- titled ''Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West'' -- called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.
The official and others spoke to The Associated Press on condition they not be identified because the report remains classified. ***
Al-Qaida is ''considerably operationally stronger than a year ago'' and has ''regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001,'' the counterterrorism official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. ''They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States.''
The group also has created ''the most robust training program since 2001, with an interest in using European operatives,'' the official quoted the report as saying.
At the same time, this official said, the report speaks of ''significant gaps in intelligence'' so U.S. authorities may be ignorant of potential or planned attacks.
John Kringen, who heads the CIA's analysis directorate, echoed the concerns about al-Qaida's resurgence during testimony and conversations with reporters at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. ***
''They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan,'' Kringen testified. ''We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising."
Your Chicago Tribune covered the story in the fourth paragraph of a page four piece about the White House backing away from Michael Chertoff's intestinal rumblings regarding summer time threats from Al Qaeda.
The Sun-Times dedicated its front page to the days-old story of Amy Jacobson in a bikini. The Tribune's front page story was the death of a former First Lady at the age of 94.
On an unrelated note: The ongoing drop in newspaper circulation and readership remains unexplained.