Internet aids terrorism

AL-QA'IDA is recruiting Western men to become Muslim converts and carry out terrorist attacks, according to sources who have read the classified version of a security assessment from the top spy agencies in the US.

The full five-page document of the National Intelligence Estimate -- a 1 1/2-page version was released for public consumption this week -- indicates that Westerners outside the religious stereotype have trained at al-Qa'ida camps in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, sources said.

Aside from recruiting radical Muslims likely to associate with Osama bin Laden's terror network, finding recruits not immediately recognisable as associated with the Muslim community was a key objective of al-Qa'ida because of the ability of such recruits to blend in with Western society, terror experts said.

The public version of the NIE report, published this week, rocked Washington and Canberra with its disturbing portrait of an organisation regrouping, despite five years of the war on terror.

The report indicated al-Qa'ida had recovered some of its strength to launch attacks on US and European soil because of the protection of its leaders in tribal areas of Pakistan and its emergence as a force in Iraq.

"If you think the public version is bleak, the classified version is worse," said a source who has read the report and who spoke with The Weekend Australian on condition of anonymity. Pressed on the scope of al-Qa'ida infiltration and what countries were involved, the source said any further detail could compromise operational efforts by intelligence agencies to disrupt the networks. However, it is understood Australia is not mentioned in this context.

Intelligence agencies pointed to the internet as boosting al-Qa'ida's efforts to infiltrate and recruit in the West, a point alluded to in the declassified portions of the NIE report this week.

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