AP, Oct. 28, 2002
(Washington-AP, Oct. 28, 2002 Updated 8:20 PM) _ Al-Qaida draws much of its income from contributions by a worldwide network of individuals and charities, including some in the United States, the CIA says.
“The organization tries to raise funds from mosques, Islamic charities and individuals _ rich and poor _ throughout much of the world,” a recently released CIA statement said. “This has helped corroborate our view that al-Qaida relies on a steady stream of contributions.”
The capture of al-Qaida operatives and the dismantling of the group’s camps and bases in Afghanistan has provided U.S. intelligence with a greater understanding of its financial operations, particularly the emphasis al-Qaida places on fund raising, according to the statement, which was written in April.
The statement includes the CIA’s responses to a number of questions posed by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to CIA Director George J. Tenet in February, when Tenet addressed the committee in open session on threats to U.S. national security. Al-Qaida topped the list.
The unclassified statement was entered into the congressional record earlier this month and noted on the web site of the Federation of American Scientists, an open-government advocacy group.
Since Sept. 11, the U.S. Treasury Department and the United Nations have frozen the assets of a number of groups, businesses and people linked to al-Qaida. While Osama bin Laden has a sizable fortune inherited from his family’s construction business, his group draws a good deal of operating income from donations around the world.
“We … have found solid information on al-Qaida financial links to numerous regions of the world, such as East Asia, Europe and the United States. Financial links have helped establish al-Qaida associations in several U.S. cities, Spain, the United Kingdom and elsewhere that have been disrupted by arrests and asset freezes,” the statement says.
The report makes little mention of al-Qaida’s alleged participation in legitimate businesses and criminal enterprises as a source of funds.
The CIA also casts doubt on press reports that al-Qaida is profiting from the diamond trade in war-ravaged parts of Africa, saying it has uncovered little evidence to verify those reports.
In addition, the statement notes that al-Qaida and other Sunni extremists are improving their ability to conduct cyberattacks on infrastructure that rely on electronic or computer systems.
But a Japanese terrorist group, Aleph, appears to be taking the lead in developing computer expertise, the report says. Aleph _ formerly known as Aum Shinrikyo _ conducted attacks using a chemical weapon, sarin, that killed 12 people in Tokyo subways in 1995.
“These (computer skills) could be applied to cyberattacks against the U.S.,” the statement says. “This group identifies itself as a cyber cult and derives millions of dollars a year from computer retailing.”
In addition, it says there is no evidence that al-Qaida and Iran are working together to conduct terrorist operations. But, it notes, Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons on two fronts, trying to develop the capability to produce both plutonium and enriched uranium. One or the other is required to make a nuclear weapon.
Some aspects of the six-month-old statement are dated. It notes that North Korea appears to be complying with the agreed framework limiting its nuclear weapons efforts. But three months later, U.S. intelligence received the first hard information that North Korea was again pursuing nuclear weapons.
The CIA report also assesses the stability of a number of regimes:
_Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is effective in crushing opponents, but any centrist Sunni Islamic regime that replaces his will face strong pushes for autonomy from Kurds and Shiite Muslims in the northern and southern parts of the country.
The Iraqis, who have long lived under a repressive government, have little experience in compromise and other necessary elements of a pluralistic democratic state, suggesting that any government that replaces Saddam will face substantial dissent.
_King Abdallah’s monarchy in Jordan is stable, and the capable military supports him. However, “a sharp escalation in Israel-Palestinian violence or a U.S. strike on Iraq could produce significant unrest.”
_The Saudi monarchy under Crown Prince Abdallah “faces increasingly open challenges to its control” from anti-Americanism and people who can’t find good jobs.
_The regimes of Libya, Syria, Vietnam and Georgia appear stable, at least in the near future.
_While the Bush administration suggests that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat has been “compromised by terror,” the report suggests that security officers under him “probably were acting on their own rather than in accordance with established PA policy” when they took part in attacks on Israelis.
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