While there is no specific intelligence pointing to an imminent attack, a new government assessment concludes the threat from al Qaeda is growing.
U.S. officials are particularly worried about recent intensive terrorist training in the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Law enforcement and intelligence sources tell ABC News that hundreds of Islamic radicals have been to training camps in Pakistan during the last three years and have since dispersed worldwide. The fear is that some of the radicals have been sent to Europe — and perhaps even the United States.
Slowly but surely, top officials are starting to talk publicly about something Pakistani leaders at first denied.
Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence, told Congress today, "We actually see the al Qaeda central being resurgent in their role in planning operations. … They seem to be fairly well-settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan there. We see more training. We see more money and we see more communications."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also referenced the Pakistan training camps during an interview today with ABC News. He indicated that the terrorists from the region might try to slip into the United States via Europe.
Last month, ABC News obtained exclusive video of an apparent "graduation ceremony" for about 300 al Qaeda/Taliban recruits at a camp somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Those recruits, allegedly trained to be suicide bombers, were then apparently dispatched to various parts of the world to carry out their mission.
White House and security officials are expected to discuss the latest threat assessment Thursday. The hunt is on to find any specifics pointing to a terrorist plot.
A number of sources have expressed deep concern about how little has been done to target al Qaeda central in Pakistan in recent years. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been either unwilling or unable to do much to clamp down on the camps as he tries to strike a delicate balance between his supporters and those rebelling against his authority who have gone so far as to try to assassinate him.
The United States has been unable to mount massive incursions into the area to target al Qaeda because of concerns that American raids there could undermine the Musharraf government's grip on power.
This will likely become a subject of considerable political debate soon, with members of Congress asking how this problem could run so rampant while others could say that the United States has lost its focus on the people that caused the Sept. 11 attacks.
Richard Clarke, a former U.S. counterterrorism adviser and ABC News consultant, offered a sobering assessment, saying al Qaeda has had three years or longer of safe haven to train terrorists and plan attacks.
That, Clarke said, is enough to put together something viable, effective and lethal.