Thursday, October 28, 2004

Terrorism and the Election

For a long time now, administration officials have raised the possibility of an al-Qaeda attack to disrupt the election as well as the economy. Mainstream media sources indicated in the beginning of August that they had intelligence related to election threats (Reuters, AP, and other reported this, though all I can find online now is this cached Washington Times article that is almost word for word the same as the Reuters one.) The article states that these attacks would be launched in response to a public message from Osama Bin Laden.

Earlier this week however, many newspapers around the country ran stories indicating doubt that there would be any attacks before or on Election Day. They claimed to find "no direct evidence" of a plot.

Okay, fine. That's good.

However, there has been little official comment on a video recently acquired by ABC News in Pakistan featuring a professed al-Qaeda supporter warning of a massive attack on the United States where the "streets will run with blood." The CIA and FBI are currently attempting to see if the tape is authentic.

After floating the idea of postponing the election in the event of a large terrorist attack, administration officials quickly withdrew the idea. Officials now are talking about how to ensure security at polling places and to protect ballots in the event of some emergency. Just as elections go on around the world despite threats of violence, we cannot let our democracy become derailed because of the actions of a violent few.

However, how does one make sense of all these mixed signals? The safe bet now is, no. However, a group associated with al-Qaeda did use attacks in Spain shortly before their election to ensure the ouster of the pro-Bush party, and it would seem that the US election provides a unique opportunity for al-Qaeda. What are the chances of some sort of massive plot going undetected by our newly vigilant intelligence services? Perhaps we are about to find out.

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