(From Scotland on Sunday)
Byline: IAN MATHER
IT IS possible to imagine the fat smile of satisfaction that spread across Osama bin Laden's face when he heard about the Bali bomb. Another shattering strike against the West, hundreds more "infidels" laid to waste, shockwaves reverberating around the world. Depending on your conspiracy theory of choice, Bin Laden may have orchestrated the massacre from a Middle Eastern bolthole, hooked up to a life-maintaining dialysis machine; or he may have had nothing to do with it, the bomb the work of a passionate, but separate, Islamic fundamentalist sect. Or, of course, Bin Laden may be dead.
But even if it eventually turns out that the Bali bomb was not the work of al-Qaeda, and that its master no longer walks the earth, there will be little comfort for those who thought the terrorist network had been smashed by the American onslaught on its bases in Afghanistan.
In a chilling report to a US congressional intelligence committee last week the CIA announced that al-Qaeda had been "reconstituted". "They are coming after us. They want to execute attacks. The threat environment we find ourselves in today is as bad as it was last summer, before 9/11," CIA Director George Tenet warned.
The US is not alone in making this grim assessment. A recent report by the United Nations concluded that, despite George W Bush's war on terrorism, al-Qaeda is "fit and well", still has access to funds and is "poised to strike again".
As though on cue, al-Qaeda's leaders have begun to …