Friday, September 26, 2008
Last month, US intelligence intercepted Al-Qaeda communications warning operatives to be ready for instructions in October. The terrorist group is thought to be planning what has been called an “October surprise” possibly in order to influence the 2008 US elections, just as it did in 2004 when it bombed Madrid commuter trains.
The messages reportedly were simply to be alert and ready to be called upon, and were sent both physically and electronically.
According to Ted Gistaro, a US intelligence officer, the government is “not aware of any specific, credible al-Qaida plot to attack the U.S. homeland, but [does] receive a steady stream of threat [sic] reporting from sources of varying creditability”.
Intelligence agents are expecting an increase in the number of related messages as October nears.
Ex-CIA agent Gary Berntsen said that Al-Qaeda was likely not capable of carrying out another attack on the US, but would target its allies “to peel them off from the coalition that George Bush has built to defeat them”. Roger Cressey, once a counter-terrorism official, agreed that the attacks would likely be global and not focused on the US.
An advisor to John McCain noted that in the past, Al-Qaeda have used three different tactics to influence elections: public bombings, assassinations, and messages to voters.
Recently, Al-Qaeda attempted an attack on the new Pakistani President Zardari after his anti-terrorism speech, targeting the Islamabad Mariott hotel where he was expected to eat. According to the vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the attack would have been devastating if it had succeeded in killing the new President. “Think of the symbolic value if they were able to kill Zardari after his first address as president of Pakistan in a speech announcing his fight against the terrorists,” he said.