Osama Bin Laden 'largely isolated' from Al Qaeda, says CIA

Yet the Al Qaeda organization remains the "most clear and present danger to US security," Director Michael Hayden said in a speech Thursday.

Though nominally still in charge of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden is "largely isolated" from the group and is focused on protecting himself, according to the head of the CIA.

CNN reports that in a speech Thursday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, CIA Director Michael Hayden said Mr. bin Laden is "putting a lot of energy into his own survival – a lot of energy into his own security," and "appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of the organization he nominally heads." Nonetheless, the US is continuing to pursue him, Mr. Hayden added.

Reuters reports that despite bin Laden's isolation from his terrorist group, Hayden said Al Qaeda is the greatest threat to US security.

The Washington Post writes that Hayden said Iraq is no longer the top concern in the US war against terrorism. "Today, the flow of money, weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq is greatly diminished and al-Qaeda senior leaders no longer point to it as the central battlefield," Hayden said. ABC News adds that Hayden said Al Qaeda in Iraq, which is affiliated with bin Laden's Al Qaeda, is "on the verge of strategic defeat." But Hayden also expressed concern about terrorists leaving Iraq to fight elsewhere. "Iraq veterans also have been involved in planning attacks in Europe and the United States," he said.

Another of Hayden's concerns is the recruitment and training of Westerners by Al Qaeda. The Guardian reports that he said Westerners have been traveling to northwest Pakistan for terrorist training, and are valued by Al Qaeda for their ability to blend in to Western society.

Hayden also warned that Al Qaeda is increasing its operations around the world, writes the BBC. Among the recent activity Hayden cited:

Hayden noted that there have been successes against Al Qaeda's terrorist network, writes US News and World Report. Hayden said Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Indonesia terrorist group with ties to Al Qaeda, is on the ropes due to Indonesian efforts, and the group's "capabilities and confidence are simply not what they were three years ago."

Hayden also discussed his future at the CIA, writes The Washington Post.

Hayden and Mr. McConnell, both appointed by President George Bush, have been the subject of fierce criticism for their public support of the White House's "enhanced interrogation" program for terrorists, which critics say is synonymous with torture. Some Democrats are seeking their ouster when Barack Obama assumes the presidency in January.

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