New York Sun
September 22, 2008
WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of two major terrorist attacks on Western targets, America’s counterterrorism community is warning that Al Qaeda may launch more overseas operations to influence the presidential elections in November.
Call it Osama bin Laden’s “October surprise.” In late August, during the weekend between the Democratic and Republican conventions, America’s military and intelligence agencies intercepted a series of messages from Al Qaeda’s leadership to intermediate members of the organization asking local cells to be prepared for imminent instructions.
An official familiar with the new intelligence said the message was picked up in multiple settings, from couriers to encrypted electronic communications to other means. “These are generic orders,” the source said — a distinction from the more specific intelligence about the location, time, and method of an attack. “It was, ‘Be on notice. We may call upon you soon.’ It was sent out on many channels.”
Also, Yemen’s national English-language newspaper is reporting that a spokesman for Yemen’s Islamic Jihad, the Qaeda affiliate that claimed credit for last week’s American embassy bombing in Sa’naa, is now publicly threatening to attack foreigners and high government officials if American and British diplomats do not leave the country.
Mr. bin Laden has sought to influence democratic elections in the past. On March 11, 2004, Al Qaeda carried out a series of bombings on Madrid commuter trains. Three days later, the opposition and anti-Iraq war Socialist Workers Party was voted into power.
In the week before the 2004 American presidential election, Mr. bin Laden recorded a video message to the American people promising repercussions if President Bush were re-elected. In later messages, Al Qaeda’s leader claimed credit for helping elect Mr. Bush in 2004. Last year in Pakistan, Qaeda assassins claimed the life of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who returned to her native country in a bid for re-election.
“There is an expectation that Al Qaeda will try to influence the November elections by attempting attacks globally,” a former Bush and Clinton White House counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, said yesterday.