- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

A recent CIA analysis concluded Saddam Hussein is highly likely to use a "third party" terrorist group to conduct a proxy attack on the United States in advance of American military operations, according to U.S. officials.
Analysts within the CIA's intelligence directorate reached the conclusion based on a complicated process that applied statistical probabilities to unknown threat scenarios, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to one U.S. official, the CIA estimated there is better than an 85 percent chance that Saddam would use proxy terrorists to strike the United States and that the likelihood would increase after any U.S. military action were to begin.
The exercise was conducted several months ago and the analysts stated in a report that Saddam could order a terrorist attack against the United States before U.S. forces start operations to oust him.
"It didn't specify what groups" would be used to carry out the attacks, another U.S. official said.
The analysis stated that if Saddam felt the end of his regime is inevitable that he could "strike out against us using a third party," the second official said.
The first official cited the assessment as saying that the pre-emptive terrorist attack could involve the use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
The intelligence assessment coincided with President Bush's decision announced Feb. 7 to raise the terrorism-alert status from yellow, "heightened," to orange, or "high" danger of terrorist attack, primarily from al Qaeda.
U.S. officials said the heightened alert is expected to last through March, which would coincide with any U.S. military action against Iraq.
The CIA analysis also preceded the arrest last week of four persons in Tampa, Fla., who law-enforcement officials say were part of a clandestine cell of Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists who provided financing and other support for anti-Israel suicide attacks.
The formula used by the analysts to reach the conclusion involved what officials called a "Bayesian analysis" of Saddam's options. The analytical model is derived from the statistical-probability theory of 18th-century mathematician Thomas Bayes.
U.S. intelligence officials said there have been recent reports that Saddam would try to use Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, to conduct operations in the United States and against the United States abroad.
The reports said that the two groups could carry out strikes in support of Iraq after the start of military operations, which could begin as early as mid-March, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the FBI has sent a notice to law-enforcement agencies to be on alert for "lone extremists," according to a law-enforcement official.
The FBI believes there is a threat from extremists who could act on their own and not in connection with an organized terrorist group. The notice mentioned the 1993 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.
"Lone extremists represent an ongoing terrorist threat in the United States," the FBI notice stated. It was first reported Sunday in the New York Times.
"Lone extremists may operate independently or on the fringes of established extremist groups, either alone or with one or two accomplices," the notice stated.
The danger of terrorist attack in the United States remains real. U.S. intelligence officials said the CIA has concluded in classified assessments that al Qaeda has all the materials needed to carry out a chemical, biological or radiological terrorist attack.
The assessment that an attack is near is based on multiple sources close to al Qaeda, including some prisoners held at the U.S. Navy's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, base and other locations.
Still, U.S. intelligence agencies do not have specific information on where an attack would take place.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell released detailed intelligence on Iraq's links with terrorists at the United Nations in New York on Feb. 5.
"None of this should come as a surprise to any of us," Mr. Powell said. "Terrorism has been a tool used by Saddam for decades. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism long before these terrorist networks had a name, and this support continues."
Mr. Powell said Iraq's links to terrorist groups includes support from Palestinian terrorists and financial support to the families of suicide bombers.
He also disclosed that Iraq has provided safe haven to al Qaeda terrorists connected to Abu Musaab Zarqawi, an associate of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda supporters.
Al Qaeda terrorists last year "bragged" that Iraq was a good place that could be transited quickly, Mr. Powell said in a presentation on Iraq.

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