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CIA Director Testifies on Terror Threats, North Korea, Iraq - 2003-02-12


U.S. intelligence officials say they are still analyzing the audio tape, believed to have been recorded by al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. CIA Director George Tenet and another top official, testified for a second day before a congressional panel.

Mr. Tenet was asked several times by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide his views of the audio tape. "One of the things we're looking at is, he is obviously raising the confidence of his people, he's obviously exhorting them to do more, and whether this is a signal of impending attack or not is something we're looking at," he said. "I can only tell you what the history is."

Mr. Tenet declined to answer questions in public session about what the United States may know about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, or what impact anti-terrorist operations have had on his ability to lead the terrorist organization.

On Iraq, Mr. Tenet said the United States continues to cooperate fully with United Nations inspectors. He said giving U.N. inspections more time would simply give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein more time to build his weapons capabilities, but acknowledged that inspections might still prove useful.

Mr. Tenet said he believes that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq by U.S. and allied forces, if war becomes necessary.

On North Korea, Mr. Tenet told the Senate panel that it is "a very good judgment" that Pyongyang has one or two plutonium-based nuclear devices. He was asked by Senator Evan Bayh, of Indiana, about North Korea's ability to deliver these weapons. "They have fired a missile over Japan, what is the likelihood that they currently have a missile capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States?" he said.

"I think the de-classified answer is yes, they can do that," Mr. Tenet replied.

"So in all likelihood they have nuclear warheads, and the ability to deliver them to the West Coast of the United States. Obviously, very, very troubling," Senator Bayh said.

The United States has known for some time about the long-range missile, called the Taepo Dong Two, the three-stage version of which is said to have a range of more than 9,000 kilometers.

However, the new attention paid to the subject underscores heightened concern among lawmakers about North Korea, as the United States continues preparations for possible war with Iraq.

Mr. Tenet called the North Korean situation "very serious," but in congressional testimony this week has denied that Bush administration focus on Iraq is hampering its ability to deal with North Korea.

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