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Intelligence Officials Warn of Al Qaeda Attack

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Senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday that Al Qaeda would likely attempt an attack on the United States within the next six months.

"The biggest threat is not so much that we face an attack like 9/11," CIA director Leon Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to The Associated Press. "It is that Al Qaeda is adapting its methods in ways that oftentimes make it difficult to detect."

Panetta said that Al Qaeda was deploying operatives to the United States to carry out new attacks from inside the country, including "clean" recruits with a negligible trail of terrorist contacts. The intelligence officials spoke to Congress during an annual assessment of the nation's terror threats.

The New York Times reports that the top officials testified that the threat of an attack on telecommunications and other computer networks was also growing.

“Malicious cyberactivity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication,” Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, said.

Blair said with the changes to national security made since the failed Christmas Day plane attack, U.S. intelligence hoped to identify and stop such attackers. But he warned that not all skilled would-be terrorists could be detected.

Meanwhile, a federal law enforcement official says the suspect in the failed plane attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has started talking to FBI agents. Abdulmutallab started providing information last week to the FBI, and that the intelligence community is following the leads Abdulmutallab gave them.