March 17th, 2010
08:48 PM ET

U.S. believes al Qaeda still deadly but 'on the run'

An intercepted message indicates some members of al Qaeda are looking to the group's founder for more visible leadership, a U.S. intelligence official told CNN Wednesday after CIA director Leon Panetta talked about the message in a newspaper interview.

Osama bin Laden is "rarely seen, rarely heard," the official said, and that is "troubling" to those who see him as their leader.

"There are strong indications that some al Qaeda terrorists would like Bin Laden to take take a higher profile," the official said, adding that Panetta's comments in the Washington Post were referring to the al Qaeda core that is operating along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Al Qaeda "is on the run but still coming after us," the official said.

CNN was unable to corroborate the existence of the intercepted message or its contents outside the U.S. intelligence community, and neither the official nor Panetta provided any further information about it or its contents.

In the Post article, Panetta credited the CIA's aggressive campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region for the terror group's apparent disarray. "Those operations are seriously disrupting al Qaeda," he told the paper.

"It's pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run."

Six weeks ago, Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the thought "that al Qaeda and its terrorist allies and affiliates could very well attack the United States in our homeland" keeps him up at night.

"Having said that, the biggest threat I see is not so much that we face another attack similar to 9/11," he told the senators. "I think the greatest threat is that al Qaeda is adapting their methods in ways that oftentimes make it difficult to detect."

In his testimony, Panetta said that operations targeting al Qaeda and its allies were forcing them to move "to other safe havens and regional nodes, in places like Yemen and Somalia, the Magreb and others."

Bin Laden's name surfaced several times recently, including from Attorney General Eric Holder, who said Tuesday that the terrorist leader would never be captured alive.

"The chances he'll be captured alive are infinitesimal. He'll be killed by our people, or his own people so he's not captured by us," Holder told the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that oversees the Justice Department budget.

Last week, Belgian terror suspect Malika el Aroud said during testimony in her trial that her husband –Moez Garsallaoui, who is wanted on terror charges - met bin Laden in the summer of 2008.

There have been no confirmed sightings of bin Laden since he escaped from Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001. While the working assumption of Western intelligence agencies is that he is somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, it is thought few al Qaeda members know his location.

Last December, in an interview with ABC, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said "it's been years" since there was good intelligence on where bin Laden is located.

"Well, we don't know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we'd go get him," the secretary said.

Many audiotapes purportedly recorded by bin Laden have been released in that time, the most recent on January 24 in which the voice on the tape praises the attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route to Michigan on December 25 and warns the United States of more attacks.

- From CNN National Security Producer Pam Benson

Post by:
Filed under: Al Qaeda • National security • World
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. William Marlowe

    They told us this at Tora Bora also and we all know what happened after that...

    March 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. shawn m.

    why we keep putting these no good talibans and al qaeda people on cnn and other media glorifying these people..this is how they are getting their messeges to the world

    March 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dbo boy

    they are not runing there waiting untill u.s runs COMPLETELY OUT OF MONEY than attacks would hurt so much more.

    March 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rhia

    Is anyone else worried that we're focusing too much on Al-Qaeda now? It's tunneling our vision to much. We need to realize that Al-Qaeda is not a singular group with this anti-capitalistic, anti-West philosophy.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. manuel

    well my triend taliban and al qaeda people are there because that is the job of the beast theat is doing it job percfectly to destroy the whole glove not only usa but the whole globe

    March 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Efren

    Bin Alden should set an example to his followers that he is not afraid to die and by dying he will go to heaven with 75 virgins. He should not be hiding and let his followers die while he hunker down and hide like a cornered rat. Show us how brave and a true leader you are.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sandra

    Yes Shawn M. lets start filtering our news so that it says exactly what we want to hear. Yeah we could do that but it would be like watching Fox News.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JDC

    al Qaeda are like roaches. They keep coming and coming and coming and coming and coming and coming and coming...

    March 17, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Michael

    Unfortunately al Qaeda will never be deafeated, end of story!

    March 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lance

    bin Laden is dead, end of that story.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Keith R

    Shawn, you said it. The world media needs to shut these terrorist stories down. These people survive through the keyboards of these journalists. Time to end it. Ignore these fools worldwide and let our boys finish them.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Florida Bob

    Attorney General Eric Holder, who said Tuesday that the terrorist leader would never be captured alive. Holder thinks the people of this country are idiots! Holder knows full well that Bin Laden is already dead, but he and Gates would never admit this, because that would only credit George Bush. God forbid. Don't bet on history and time.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. James

    Usama Bin Laden was killed over 5 Years ago but the US Govt won't admit to this because he's mor valuable as a propaganda tool 'alive' than if he were dead.

    March 17, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kmk, portland, oregon

    Instead of Iraq, the war should have fought in Pakistan. The hub and epicenter of terrorism.

    March 18, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Daniel

    I guess we're going to hear all this bravado from now on.Pretty soon the people in the Middle East will stop chanting "Allah Akbar" and start to chant "Allah Akbar,but the West,Akbar-er".Islam may become a thing of the past,or so many Westerners hope.

    March 18, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
1 2