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US Intelligence Report: US in 'Heightened Threat Environment'

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The U.S. intelligence community says al-Qaida remains determined to strike the United States and "would not hesitate" to use weapons of mass destruction.

In an assessment issued Tuesday, the National Intelligence Estimate says an al-Qaida plot against the U.S. would likely focus on prominent targets. It says an attack would have the goal of causing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks and fear.

The report is a collective judgment from the nation's 16 spy agencies. It says al-Qaida probably will seek to use the contacts and capabilities of the group "al-Qaida in Iraq" to attack the United States. It says al-Qaida in Iraq is the only affiliate of the terrorist group known to have expressed a desire to attack the U.S. homeland.

The report says al-Qaida has protected and regenerated key elements of its capabilities to attack the U.S. These include obtaining safe haven in tribal areas in northwest Pakistan.

The report says the al-Qaida terror network will intensify efforts to put operatives in the United States. It also says the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon may consider attacking the United States over the next three years if it perceives the U.S. as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.

But the report notes that the U.S. is a much harder target for terrorists because of increased anti-terror efforts following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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