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New York Daily News

 

Osama Bin Laden wants a vote, so beware a late October suprise

October 22, 2008

By William J. Bratton, R. P. Eddy

Will Osama Bin Laden have anything to say about the U.S. presidential race? Does our economic implosion make us an even more tempting target?

Al Qaeda has a history of trying to influence elections, most notably with the 2004 train attacks in Madrid. Just three days before Spain's prime ministerial elections, 10 bombs left 191 dead- and Al Qaeda affiliates swung the election away from the incumbent, who supported the coalition wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toward the challenger, a vociferous critic of U.S. foreign policy.

Seven months later, Bin Laden attempted to disrupt the presidential race between George W. Bush and John Kerry. His videotaped statement, released just days before the elections, seemed to support Kerry—driving some voters toward Bush. According to 2006 reporting by Ron Suskind, CIA analysts concluded that Bin Laden knew that voters would react in this way and his message was "clearly designed to assist the President's reelection."

If Bin Laden wants to engineer a late-October surprise in 2008, an attack on a significant American economic target may be one of the most tempting opportunities he has had in recent years. One of his goals on 9/11 was to undermine our markets; he has bragged of what he calls the "success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan." Given our current financial turmoil, Bin Laden may believe that a strike against the U.S.could push our economy over the edge.

Bin Laden may have already begun to weigh in on our coming elections. Last month, Al Qaeda launched an assault against the American Embassy in Yemen, including plans to slaughter the embassy staff. It was repelled only because of the heroics of local guards. If history is any guide, we should expect to see more terror in the coming weeks.

U.S. intelligence is worried. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said that Al Qaeda has reconstituted and may again be capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. U.S. intelligence agencies have also recently warned of Al Qaeda using "European-looking" operatives. Though trained in places like Pakistan, they may well have European passports and clean records—meaning they can enter the U.S. without a visa andwon't be on any customs or police watch lists.

State and local police, as wellas commercial security officials, should be especially vigilant in guarding high-value financial sites. Preparations to prevent car- or truck-borne bombs should be enhanced and searches of building entrants should be increased, and such searches should be random or based on behavioral recognition.

This is a critical election for AlQaeda. The U.S.-led invasions of two Muslim countries during the Bush years and scandals such as Abu Ghraib have been aboon for Bin Laden's demagoguery. He and other Islamists continually (and dishonestly) cite these wars as evidence of a U.S. war on Islam. That has helped create a steady stream of suicide bombers eager to destroy U.S. targets on their way to paradise.

Bin Laden is likely to believe that a President John McCain—who has jokingly sung of bombing Iran and who championed the troop surge in Iraq—is more likely to engender Muslim anger and resentment than would his opponent. Indeed, international polls, including those in Muslim countries, show striking support for Barack Obama.

Put simply: Bin Laden probably realizes it could become markedly more difficult to paint the United States as the "Great Satan" with a new President who is admired internationally. The remaining 14 days before the elections should be seen as a time of high threat, and state and local police should be on high alert. With so much at stake in these elections, Bin Laden will probably attempt to make his opinion count.

Bratton, chief of police in Los Angeles, is a former commissioner of the New York Police Department. Eddy, senior fellow for counterterrorism at the Manhattan Institute, is a former director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council.

Original Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2008/10/21/2008-10-21_osama_bin_laden_wants_a_vote_so_beware_a-2.html

 

 
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