(July 11, 2007)--The Associated Press has learned that US intelligence analysts believe al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the US has been able to rebuild, despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.
Still, numerous government officials say they know of no specific, credible threat of a new attack.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the new government threat assessment calls it a stark appraisal.
The report will be discussed at the White House on Thursday as part of a broader meeting on an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.
The official and others spoke on condition of anonymity because the secret report remains classified.
The AP report came as Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff tried Wednesday to tamp down fears raised by statements he made the day before to the Chicago Tribune.
Chertoff told the editorial board of the Chicago paper Tuesday that he had a "gut feeling" that a terrorist attack on the United States was likely over the summer.
“The intent to attack us remains as strong as it was on September 10, 2001. We've done a lot to degrade the enemy's capability, but the enemy has also done a lot to retool its capability,” he told the newspaper.
But, in an interview Wednesday with CBS News' Bob Orr Chertoff said he had no "specific threat information about a particular attack" and said that perhaps his use of what he labeled the "colloquial expression gut feeling" had "captured peoples' attention."
After saying there was no specific information pointing to increased danger of an attack Chertoff told Orr that "we do need to be concerned as we go into the summer about general developments with respect to the world of the terrorists."
The Homeland Security Secretary said that in the event of information about a specific threat, state and local authorities would be alerted.
Chertoff's remarks to the Chicago Tribune came on the same day that some media outlets, citing anonymous government sources, reported that an al Qaeda group, was either heading toward or already in the United States.
Chertoff did not specifically deny those reports but said that his department was not aware of any current specific threats directed against the US.