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Goss Says Leaks Have Hurt CIA's Work, Urges Probe

"This rationale for withholding information from Congress is flat-out unacceptable and nothing more than political smoke," he said. "What is unique about this one particular program, among all the other sensitive NSA programs, that justifies keeping Congress in the dark?"

Negroponte's review focused on well-known threats to the United States -- al Qaeda and terrorism in general, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, particularly in Iran and North Korea.

Negroponte said al Qaeda's most probable form of attack continues to be conventional explosives, although the terrorists remain "interested in getting chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials or weapons."

He said that if al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi eludes capture or death and continues his attacks, he could "expand his following . . . much as [Osama] bin Laden expanded al Qaeda in the 1990s."

Negroponte said Iran does not have a nuclear weapon or the key ingredients to build one. He made public the intelligence community's revised assessment that the country is further from achieving that capability than previously believed.

Negroponte said that on its current path, Iran "will likely have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon within the next decade." One year ago, Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that Iran was within five years of the capability to make a nuclear weapon. The new judgment is based on how soon Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for the core of an atomic bomb.

Negroponte also said yesterday that North Korea's claims of a nuclear arsenal are "probably true." In the past, the CIA has assessed that the country had enough nuclear material for two or more weapons.

Negroponte warned that Central Asian republics, some of which host U.S. forces, remain plagued by repression and other problems and that one or more might collapse, paving the way for terrorist activity.

Staff writers Dan Eggen and Dafna Linzer and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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