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 such an attack would be aimed at causing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, economic loss and fear.
The author of the report, U.S. intelligence officer Ted Gistaro says counter-terrorism efforts have hampered al-Qaida, but it still remains the major threat to the United States. He says al-Qaida is not stronger now than it was right after the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States, as some earlier news reports had suggested.
The intelligence report also says al-Qaida may 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, including obtaining a haven in tribal areas in northwest Pakistan.
The assessment also says Hezbollah, the Shi'ite militant group in southern Lebanon, may consider attacking the United States in the next three years if it perceives the U.S. as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.
President Bush Tuesday said al-Qaida would have been much stronger if the U.S. had not remained on the offense after the September 11th attacks.
The National Intelligence Estimate is a collective judgment from the nation's 16 spy agencies.