Al Qaeda is almost “certain” to try a major attack on the U.S. in the next three to six months, intelligence chiefs warned Tuesday.
BY John Marzulli and James Gordon Meek In Washington
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
“An attempted attack … is certain, I would say,” Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told a Senate hearing on terror threats.
Al Qaeda still wants to hit the U.S. with a massive assault, but drone strikes against its leadership in Pakistan‘s tribal turf have hurt its ability to launch terror attacks on the scale of 9/11, which killed almost 3,000 people.
“The biggest threat is not so much that we face an attack like 9/11. It is that Al Qaeda is adapting its methods in ways that oftentimes make it difficult to detect,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said.
Blair also disclosed publicly for the first time that Al Qaeda has eyed destroying the D.C. Metro subway system.
One plot unfolded in the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane with 289 people aboard. The Senate Intelligence Committee fenced with FBI Director Robert Mueller and Blair about why alleged underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights instead of being treated as an enemy combatant.
Abdulmutallab, an Al Qaeda in Yemen recruit, then asked for a lawyer and clammed up instead of coughing up more intelligence.
But Blair said the Nigerian suspect is now talking again – which Mueller confirmed.
“We got good intelligence,” Blair said. “We’re gettin’ more.”
Another attack was averted last fall, when alleged “core” Al Qaeda operative Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant who went to high school in Queens, and at least two accomplices bought bomb-making materials.
New York City cops found multiple identical backpacks during searches of Queens apartments during the rush to stop a possible 9/11 anniversary attack – likely against the city.The Queens imam accused of tipping off Zazi that he was under investigation, meanwhile, is getting ready to cop a guilty plea. Ahmad Wais Afzali, a former informant for the NYPD Intelligence Division, faces up to eight years in prison for lying to FBI agents when they quizzed him about his alleged betrayal.