The declassification of parts of the National Intelligence Estimate spells out the ramifications of a major triumph in the War on Terror: the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (the report was finalized in April, before Zarqawi's death). The NIE states:
Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role. • The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements. We assess that the resulting splinter groups would, at least for a time, pose a less serious threat to US interests than does al-Qaida. • Should al-Zarqawi continue to evade capture and scale back attacks against Muslims, we assess he could broaden his popular appeal and present a global threat.
This letter, found in the rubble of Zarqawi's safehouse, confirms that al Qaeda was trying to coach Zarqawi to "broaden his popular appeal", as the NIE put it. This passage also validates the Bush administration's contention that the leaking of parts of the report was a political as well as criminal act, designed to do the maximum amount of political damage. Apparently, the leakers did not expect President Bush to declassify the report. Mainstream media outlets have ignored the Zarqawi angle and other inaccuracies in the leaked portions, possibly because they emphasize how badly New York Times writer Mark Mazzetti's article was compromised by his partisan sources. Coming so soon before the midterm elections, the duping of Mazzetti echoes the shameful forged Texas Air National Guard memos, released just prior to the 2004 Presidential election, which led to Dan Rather's downfall.