The killing of Osama bin Laden is important and damages al Qaeda, but the terrorist organization has long since "metastasized" and spread throughout the Middle East and the U.S. will continue to face new threats, CBS News security consultant Juan Zarate said Tuesday.
Bin Laden the strategic head and symbolic center of the movement that he founded. But "al Qaeda is different in 2011 than the organization we saw after 9/11," Zarate, a top national security advisor in the Bush administration, told CBS' "The Early Show." "It's metastasized. There are regional groups in Yemen and North Africa and other leaders who can step in. This will not end or fracture al Qaeda but it's an important move."The Killing of Osama bin Laden
Zarate, echoing sentiments expressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in recent days, said that al Qaeda's relevance is clearly on the decline in light of the democratic revolutions occurring across the Middle East. But the group -- and the various loosely linked affiliates it has spawned -- continues to plan attacks against the West.
U.S. authorities are rushing to extract intelligence from documents and other information collected in the raid that killed bin Laden, and say that the U.S. is on guard for retaliatory attacks. "One of the concerns is al Qaeda will accelerate attack planning under way. Authorities are worried about lone wolves inspired by bin Laden, seeking restitution for his death," Zarate said. "You're starting to see the jihad websites heat up with rhetoric. A lot of people eulogizing bin Laden, speaking about the al Qaeda movement not dying with his death."
White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said the release of photographs, video or other evidence of bin Laden's death will be weighed in light of possible retaliatory actions taken by bin Laden's adherents. "One of the things we have the responsibility to do is to make sure we take measures to guard against any type of adverse reaction to the news of bin Laden's death," Brennan told "Early Show" anchor Erica Hill.
"We have put out the results of the DNA testing, the facial recognition, details about the raid itself, [and] what we're doing now as far as exploitation of materials that we found. ... We've done that in a prudent way, overseas and in the homeland here. So in the coming days, we'll continue to look at releasing additional information.
"Al Qaeda has demonstrated throughout the years that it is intent on carrying out murderous attacks on innocent men, women, and children; they may try to use bin Laden's demise to try to justify these attacks," Brennan said.
Meanwhile, the organization is in search of a new leader. Bin Laden is likely to be replaced by his longtime deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, although Zarate said he is "divisive" and will draw competition for the top post.