A Department of Homeland Security internal report that assesses terrorist organizations, their anticipated targets and preferred weapons concludes that the threat to the United States presented by North Korea and several other countries long described as "state sponsors of terrorism" is declining.
"In the post 9/11 environment, countries do not appear to be facilitating or supporting terrorist groups intent on striking the U.S. homeland," says the draft report, which is intended to help the Homeland Security agency define its spending priorities through 2011.
Of the six nations identified by the State Department as terrorist sponsors, five of them -- North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Cuba -- are described by Homeland Security as a "diminishing concern." Iran, the final country on the list, alone is highlighted as a likely threat over the next five years.
"Only Iran appears to have the possible future motivation to use terrorist groups, in addition to its own state agents, to plot against the U.S. homeland," the report says, adding that "ideologically driven nonstate actors" are the biggest threat to the United States.
Terrorism experts said Wednesday that while the assessment seemed accurate, it was an unusual statement for the Bush administration, which has often called North Korea and several other nations serious threats.
"The administration has been very reluctant to accept that state sponsorship is a waning phenomenon," said Daniel Benjamin, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This the first time the 2-year-old department has prepared what will now be an annual Integrated Planning Guidance Report, a document that is listed as "sensitive" but not classified, meaning it was not intended to be released publicly.
Al Qaeda, not unexpectedly, tops a list of adversaries in the report, although the authors question if the group can still pull off attacks similar in scale to those of Sept. 11, 2001.