The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has restated its belief that Iran has secretly pursued nuclear weapons, and also says North Korea is continuing to develop ballistic missiles that could reach parts of the United States. The CIA posted the unclassified report on its Internet website.
The report covers activities related to weapons of mass destruction for several nations and terrorist networks in the second half of last year.
It says that Iran "continued to vigorously pursue indigenous programs to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons" and that Iran's clandestine nuclear program received "significant assistance" in the past from the proliferation network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
The report also alleges that Iran has worked to improve its delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction, and that the nation continues to use its civilian nuclear energy program as a shield to hide a weapons program.
The report notes a series of steps by North Korea, including its stated intention to resume nuclear activities that had been frozen under the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework, its completion of the reprocessing of spent fuel rods, and the utilization of plutonium to increase the size of its deterrent nuclear force.
The report says by the end of last year, North Korea was nearly self-sufficient in developing and producing ballistic missiles, and may be ready to flight-test a multiple-stage missile that could potentially reach U.S. soil.
The CIA report says the risk of terrorist networks like al-Qaida using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials remained high last year. But it notes that any attacks would likely be small-scale in nature, utilizing readily-obtainable materials and improvised delivery systems, such as a so-called "dirty bomb." The report adds that terrorist groups may launch a conventional attack on a U.S. chemical or nuclear facility in hopes of sparking panic and economic disruption.
The director of the Virginia-based GlobalSecurity.org Internet site, John Pike, notes that the CIA report points to progress in containing the spread of weapons of mass destruction in only one country, Libya.
"It was interesting to see the extensive discussion of their concerns about al-Qaida aquiring weapons of mass destruction," he noted. "Iraq has been invaded and found to have no weapons. Libya has voluntarily given theirs up. [But] Iran and North Korea seem to be moving ahead and aquiring more weapons of mass destruction. So it is definitely a mixed report card -- some good news, some bad news and some worrisome news."
U.S. law requires the CIA provide regular assessments of other counties' activities concerning the acquisition, development, and production of weapons of mass destruction. Although the reports are made public, they may also contain a classified annex intended only for select members of Congress.