Whatever its boss' fate, al Qaeda appears to be regenerating, Graham said, and even the Hamburg, Germany, cell believed central to the Sept. 11 attacks has been showing signs of life.
"What we have seen is a disturbing pattern of the reformulation of al Qaeda and their renewed willingness and capability to conduct terrorist attacks," he said.
Added Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the intelligence panel's top Republican: "They could hit us any day."
Administration officials have pointed to numerous indications of al Qaeda activity but question whether the network still has the command structure or communications to plan something from the top.
They believe mid-level operatives are having to do their own hasty planning with whatever tools they can muster, and the result could be more frequent but less sophisticated attacks than before.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration viewed Ghaith's taped remarks as no surprise, but wouldn't discuss whether bin Laden is alive or whether a new attack is likely.
Lawmakers said al Qaeda does not need bin Laden in order to go on.
"This snake can crawl without its head and we need to be aware of that," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, told CNN's Late Edition.
He cautioned everyone to be especially careful on Independence Day because of its symbolic value as a terrorist target.
The congressional leaders offered no evidence of an impending attack other than the uncorroborated warnings issued lately, including one that al Qaeda could use fuel tanker trucks against Jewish targets in the United States.
Graham said al Qaeda appears to be more capable of attacking Americans than it was a month or two ago.
With all the foreboding from Washington, and the desire to track down the man behind the worst terrorist attack on America, it was left to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sound a note of confidence about the progress made against both al Qaeda and the Taliban militia.
"They are a defeated force," he said. "They are on the run." And bin Laden?
"Osama bin Laden must know that, whatever acts of terror he thinks he can commit, will not remain unanswered, and that his days are anyway numbered," Karzai said.
"But he will be found one day, sooner or later. That is for sure."
—The Associated Press
Armed Civilian Patrols in Brooklyn a No Show
N E W Y O R K, June 24 — The armed groups a rabbi had said would begin patrolling two heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhoods in response to an FBI warning that terrorists might attack synagogues and Jewish schools did not materialize at the announced locations and time early today. Instead, a collection of people from law enforcement, the media, community leaders and curiosity seekers gathered at street corners in the Flatbush and Borough Park sections where Rabbi Yakove Lloyd had said his armed patrols would meet.
In an early-morning call to The Associated Press, Lloyd, founder of the right wing Jewish Defense Group, insisted that 25 members of the group did carry out patrols.
The police had no comment on Lloyd's claim early this morning, according to spokesman Detective Robert Price.
Overnight, police closely monitored the Brooklyn streets where the groups were expected to show up, according to Police Officer Dominick Scotto.