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Al Qaeda would have been a heck of a lot stronger today had we not stayed on the offense,” the president said after meeting yesterday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

According to the intelligence estimate, targets in the United States include “prominent political, economic and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.”

Additionally, the group that carried out the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, killing nearly 3,000 people, has not given up its desire to develop unconventional weapons.

“We assess that al Qaeda will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability,” the report stated.

The pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group also poses a threat and could conduct attacks in the United States “if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran,” the report stated.

Two new dangers identified in the report are the spread of radical “Salafist” groups that use the Internet to promote anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions and the growth in “self-generating cells” of terrorists in Western nations.

The report said that these are signs that “the radical and violent segment of the West’s Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States.”

Recent U.S. cases of Islamist plots against Fort Dix, N.J., and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York are indications of a growing global extremist movement that “points to the possibility that others may become sufficiently radicalized that they will view the use of violence here as legitimate,” the report said.

However, it also stated that “we assess that this internal [U.S.] Muslim terrorist threat is not likely to be as severe as it is in Europe.”