THE summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, released last week by the White House, tells Americans, in effect, that they are less safe now than they were after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, almost six years ago.
We sensed that already, although President Bush and his administration have persisted in telling us otherwise in the face of some very stark facts. Primary among these are the effectiveness and combat experience being gained every day in Iraq in the unsuccessful four-year war by increasingly numerous embittered enemies of the United States.
Cited in the NIE is the resurgence of al-Qaeda, which is working with the Afghan Taliban in the rather lawless mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. Both were driven out of Afghanistan by Afghan Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in late 2001.
In contradiction to the claims of Mr. Bush, others in the administration, and Congress, the new NIE makes clear that America's terrorist enemies have gained ground in numbers and organization around the world since 9/11. They have, in fact, struck in Spain, the United Kingdom, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and, if one draws the definition of terrorist broadly enough, in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The NIE summary was short on specifics, although it suggested that the fault for the current situation lay with Pakistan and its president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Americans and Pakistanis should be alert to the possibility that the Bush Administration is now planning more aggressive military action inside Pakistan itself, in spite of the constraints imposed by the heavy draw on U.S. forces in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Americans concerned about their own civil liberties should also take note of the report's reference to the spread of radical Internet sites as a sign that the "violent segment of the West's Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States."
It is almost certainly the case that Americans' lives are more at risk now than they were right after 9/11. The reason, of course, is the Bush Administration's quick shift in 2002 from hunting al-Qaeda along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to pursuit of war with Iraq, and the absence of attention to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which is at the core of the West-Islamic confrontation.