Intelligence officials say al-Qaeda no longer has the power it had during 911. It’s split into two competing groups?one of which is operating in Iran and is in contact with with Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. Saad bin Laden, one of Osama’s sons, is one of the leaders of that group. In a recent intercepted communication, Osama bin Laden says he’s unhappy that al-Qaeda failed to attack U.S. interests during the war in Iraq. This failure may indicate that al-Qaeda can conduct small scale suicide attacks, but they can’t carry out another 911. However, cells of the Shi’ite terrorist organization Hezbollah are deeply entrenched in the U.S. and may become more dangerous than al-Qaeda.
“(Hezbollah) has a significant presence of its trained operatives inside the United States waiting for the call to action,” says Sen. Bob Graham. “In recent years they have been infiltrating into this core in the United States ? people who have gone through their training camps and have the skills of terrorist activity.” Last year, 18 suspected Hezbollah agents were prosecuted on charges of smuggling military equipment to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Intelligence thinks there are Hezbollah cells in Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and Kansas City, where there are large concentrations of Shi’ites.
Syria’s president Bashar Assad encourages Hezbollah activities in Lebanon, as an unofficial military presence there, and Hezbollah has pledged to retaliate against the U.S. if we threaten Syria. “Syria and Hezbollah have become one in terms of their interest,” says a U.S. official. “The two have an alliance that basically links their fate.” Iran is in bed with Hezbollah as well, and gives them $100 million a year.
CIA director George Tenet says, “I’ll tell you that Hezbollah, as an organization with capability and worldwide presence, is its equal, if not a far more capable, organization (than al-Qaeda). I actually think they’re a notch above in many respects.”
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