Tags: allen | terror | threat

Intelligence Chief: New Terror Threat Is Real

Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 08:24 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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The Department of Homeland Security is tracking a serious terror threat to the United States, Newsmax has learned.

Charles E. Allen, chief of intelligence at DHS, would not disclose details of the threat. But his office focuses on a wide range of threats to the homeland, including the oil and gas industry, the electrical industry, the financial and banking industries, ports, airports, and commercial facilities such as theme parks.

Getting Tough With Terrorists

"The threat is real; it's serious," Allen says, referring to threats from both al-Qaida and homegrown terrorists.

With some five decades of experience in the intelligence community, Allen is no stranger to analyzing such ominous threats.

For three days after the 9/11 attacks, Allen slept on an air mattress in his office at the CIA as he dealt with that crisis.

Today, Allen is in charge of the massive intelligence operation at Homeland Security, where he sees the daily Threat Matrix that details warnings issued by various intelligence agencies.

Allen points out that after bombings of London’s public transportation on July 7, 2005, Brits went about their work as if nothing had happened.

“The trains ran, the buses ran — except for the bus that had the top torn off — and the [subway] ran except for where the incidents occurred,” Allen says. “And they were determined not to give in and to . . . deal with extremism. We can’t give in either. We’ve got to be just as tough.”

Allen began his intelligence career with the CIA in 1958. On 9/11, he was in charge of coordinating spy satellite coverage. He joined DHS in 2005. As assistant secretary for the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Allen reports both to the DHS secretary, Michael Chertoff, and to Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell.

DHS’ role in dealing with terrorism, as compared with the role of the FBI and CIA, can be confusing. Think of DHS as the high-tech security force in a casino. Outside the casino, the police try to uncover plots before they happen, as the CIA and FBI do in the war on terror. Inside the casino, the security force works with the police and tries to toughen the target.

As chief of intelligence, Allen presides over analysts who keep tabs on menaces ranging from cyber threats to bioterrorism.

“We work terrorism, and we work it fully; but we look at terrorism through the prism of threats to the homeland,” Allen says.

“We work all the borders — air, land and sea,” he says. “And we work with our operating components such as customs and border protection, transportation security administration, immigration and customs enforcement, citizen immigration services — all of which have intelligence activities and have intelligence arms.”

Allen also works with DHS components that develop ways to uncover and counter radiological and biological agents. Finally, Allen looks into how Muslims become radicalized.

Muslim Extremism in America

“Why do people become terrorists? What causes them, what motivates them to cross the line?” Allen asks. “We’re going to various areas of the country, doing baselines, going out and talking to local police officials, law enforcement, talking to prison officials, talking to social workers, talking to individuals in the communities and academia, and as a result we’re trying to build a baseline across the country of where we are.”

A Pew Research Center poll found that while Muslims overall in America overwhelmingly reject suicide bombings in defense of Islam, 26 percent of Muslims in America age 18 to 29 believe suicide bombings could be justified in defense of Islam.

Moreover, relatively few Muslim Americans believe the war on terror is a sincere effort to reduce terrorism, and just 40 percent of Muslim Americans say groups of Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks.

“The study sent some warning signals that we need to truly work the problems to ensure that the extremism is kept in small amounts in this country,” Allen says. “We must get stronger in that area of countering the al-Qaida extremist ideology.”

Recently, the media highlighted a finding in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that al-Qaida has established a safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan. But the estimate also said that terrorist groups “perceive the homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11.”

While The New York Times ran that positive conclusion as part of the text of the NIE, the paper ignored the point in its story about the resurgence of al-Qaida in Pakistan. Only three other newspapers — The Virginian-Pilot, the Mobile Register, and The Cincinnati Post — referred to the finding.

While progress has been made, the war on terror is being undercut by leaks of operational secrets, Allen says.

“Any time you give aid and comfort to the enemy, or talk about counter measures the United States may be taking or measures that are out there to disrupt or defeat al-Qaida, it’s devastating to the United States,” he says.

Most of all, Americans must not lose their will in what will be a long battle.

“We Americans have to be strong, we have to be resilient,” Allen says. “We’ve got to be very, very tough.”

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