No Signs of Attack, Say Intel Officials

Tape claims preparations underway, but intelligence officials see no 'credible' indicators


U.S. counterterror officials said Thursday they have seen no specific or credible intelligence to indicate an upcoming al-Qaida attack on the country, despite a new audio tape claiming preparations for such a mission.

The United States will not let up in the war on terror despite the threats on the tape, purportedly made by Osama bin Laden, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists," McClellan said. "We put them out of business."

While warning against downplaying the taped threat, officials at intelligence and law enforcement agencies said there has been no recent increase in "chatter" that can indicate that such an attack is imminent. The officials discussed the tape on condition of anonymity because intelligence analysis is usually sensitive and because the tape was still being examined.

A Department of Homeland Security official said the agency has no immediate plans to raise the national terror alert, noting that intelligence agencies are still "working to authenticate the tape."

The national threat level is currently at "yellow alert," the middle of five stages, signifying an elevated risk of terror attacks. It has mostly been at yellow since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but has been raised to the orange "high alert" level seven times since then.

Intelligence officials said authenticating the tape, released by the television network Al-Jazeera Thursday morning, could take between several hours and several days - and perhaps through the weekend.

"If there is any actionable intelligence, we will act on it," McClellan said.

A U.S. counterterror official said analysts had no reason to doubt an assessment by Al-Jazeera that the tape was recorded in the Islamic month that corresponds with December.

President Bush was told about the audiotape shortly after an appearance on the economy in Sterling, Va., McClellan said.

Intelligence authorities were examining why bin Laden - if in fact the voice on the tape is verified as his - would be speaking out after more than a year of letting his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, serve as al-Qaida's public face in statements and other communications.

One official speculated that it might be an attempt to show supporters that bin Laden is still around.


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