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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Terrorist Threat High

Aired October 18, 2002 - 11:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the story of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. A published report says that Pakistan was the principal supplier of nuclear weapons technology to North Korea.
"The New York Times" cites U.S. intelligence sources on this. The paper says that, in exchange for the nuclear equipment, Pakistan received missiles from North Korea for its own arms race with India. "The Times" also reports that China and Russia played lesser roles in supplying equipment to North Korea's nuclear arms program.

Today, two senior U.S. diplomats are in Beijing to confer with Chinese officials how best to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program. Now one nightmare scenario is that terrorists will eventually get a nuclear weapon, either from North Korea, Iraq, or some other source. But even without such weapons, CIA director George Tenet is warning that all signs point to al Qaeda preparing to strike again.

Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, checks in now from Washington with more on this -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Leon, it was really quite striking yesterday at the hearing. The director of Central Intelligence was talking about the need for a Department of Homeland Security with Bush administration and other officials now believing that the Congress is probably not going to pass that legislation before it goes home to run for re-election very shortly. Quite a lot of concern about that.

It was in that context that George Tenet started to talk about the level of danger that he sees now. Here's how he put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: No more sighs of relief. We're in this for a long time. We have to get about the business of protecting the country with the private sector, the chiefs of police, the state and locals now. Because the threat environment we find ourselves in today is as bad as it was last summer -- the summer before 9/11 -- it is serious. They have reconstituted. They're coming after us. They want to execute attacks. You see it in Bali. You see it in Kuwait. They plan in multiple theaters of operation. They intend to strike this homeland again, and we better get about the business of putting the right structure in place as fast as we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ENSOR: So that -- from a man who sees all of the intelligence that matters -- probably worries quite a few people in Washington and around the country.

HARRIS: David, what's with the timing of all this? Why is Tenet talking this way now?

ENSOR: You just talked a moment ago about the bus bombing in the Philippines. I was talking to an official who pointed to that and said there's a lot of intelligence suggesting there may be attacks by groups affiliated with al Qaeda in the Philippines.

We saw the Bali blast in Indonesia just a short time ago. There was the attack on the oil tanker off of Yemen and the attack on the U.S. Marines in Kuwait. There's a sense that al Qaeda is trying to find targets. We saw those tapes last week from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man in al Qaeda, and another tape reportedly from Osama bin Laden calling on others to look for ways to attack.

U.S. intelligence officials have gone to some of the senior al Qaeda figures they have as prisoners, either in Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, and questioned them about the tapes -- about the Zawahari and bin Laden statements -- and learned from these prisoners more that officials say worries them again. So there's a lot of different reasons why U.S. intelligence is concerned at this point. As you heard director Tenet say, They think the threat level is just as high as it was the summer before 9/11.

HARRIS: Very interesting. David Ensor in Washington. Thanks, David.

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