Video: Insurgents planned attack in U.S.?

msnbc.com and NBC News
updated 1/22/2007 4:50:39 PM ET 2007-01-22T21:50:39

U.S. military and counterterrorism officials have told NBC News that a recent U.S. raid on an al-Qaida safehouse in Iraq uncovered unspecific plans to conduct terrorist attacks outside Iraq — including the United States.

Officials, however, told NBC that the plans were "pretty much generic," a "wish list" and something that "frankly, we've seen ... before."

The information revealed the desire of al-Qaida to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. and stated that al-Qaida operatives could conceivably use student visas to infiltrate the United States. Pentagon officials told NBC that Homeland Security and counterterrorism officials have been aware of that potential al-Qaida tactic for some time, emphasizing a continuing need to strengthen visa controls.

The information was first given to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a hearing last week by Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The information, however, was contained in a portion of his opening statement that was not read before the committee but submitted for the record, because Maples apparently felt there was not much new in it.

All the officials contacted by NBC News said that none of the documents contained any specific threats, targets, plans or timetables — but according to one official, they did demonstrate al-Qaida's "intent" to attack the United States.

One official said that, "given the current political climate [in Iraq], if this were something imminent or new, the administration would have been raising terror threat levels and pushing this information out to the media."

Officials said that all fixtures of the U.S. chain of command, including the White House, were aware of this information.

NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski and Pete Williams and MSNBC's Robert Windrem contributed to this report.

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