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al-Qaida Said Almost Ready to Attack U.S.


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By CURT ANDERSON

Associated Press Writer

Posted May 26 2004, 4:13 PM EDT

 

WASHINGTON -- Al-Qaida is determined to launch a U.S. attack in the next few months that could be linked to a major event such as the upcoming international economic summit or the summer political conventions, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday, citing "credible intelligence from multiple sources."

 

Ashcroft noted that following the March 11 train bombings in Madrid an al-Qaida spokesman said the terrorist organization's plans for an attack on America were 90 percent complete. That, coupled with a steady stream of intelligence about al-Qaida gathered before and after the Spain bombings, "suggest that it's almost ready to attack the United States," he said at a Justice Department news conference with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

 

 

The intelligence does not contain specifics such as timing, method or place of an attack. But officials say it is backed with greater corroboration than usual, including information that operatives may already be in the United States.

 

However, there are no immediate plans to increase in the U.S. terror alert.

 

Ashcroft and Mueller asked state and local law enforcement and the public for help tracking down seven people thought to be connected to al-Qaida. "All present a clear and present danger to America. All should be considered armed and dangerous," Ashcroft said.

 

The ominous warning returns the nation's attention to terrorism, the issue that President Bush has highlighted as a central theme of his re-election campaign, after intense focus on other subjects like prisoner abuses in Iraq. Bush has lost ground in the polls, falling in approval ratings to the lowest point of his presidency.

 

Ashcroft said the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq due to the political repercussions of the train bombings could lead al-Qaida to attempt to influence U.S. politics.

 

"Al-Qaida may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall could lead to similar consequences," he said.

 

"We are not aware of details of a plan," Ashcroft said when pressed for specifics.

 

The attorney general said recent intelligence indicates that al-Qaida operatives now may be traveling with their families to attract less suspicion and that the terror network has been seeking recruits "who can portray themselves as European."

 

He portrayed the "ideal al-Qaida operative" as an individual in the late 20s or early 30s.

 

To focus on the threat, the FBI has established a 2004 Threat Task Force, and FBI analysts are reviewing previously collected intelligence to see if it contains any clues to the latest threat. There will also be a series of interviews conducted by the FBI with individuals who could have information about potential plots.

 

At the news conference, large photos of the seven suspected al-Qaida operatives were displayed. The suspects, all of whom have been sought for months, include Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a Saudi native who once lived in Florida, and Aafia Siddiqui, a woman from Pakistan who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Earlier Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said there are no current plans to lift the national alert status from yellow, where it has stood since January. That's the midlevel alert level on a five-step warning program.

 

"First of all, every day we take a look at the overall threat reporting that we receive," Ridge said on NBC's "Today Show."

 

"There's not a consensus within the administration that we need to raise the threat level. ... We do not need to raise the threat level to increase security. Right now, there's no need to put the entire country on a (elevated) national alert," he said.

 

Asked whether Ridge's comment suggested a difference of opinion between his office and Ridge's, Ashcroft told reporters: "I believe we're all on the same page."

 

Mueller said that "extraordinary precautions" already were being taken to protect the sites of the two political conventions -- the Democratic convention in Boston in late July and the Republican convention in New York in late August -- as well as next month's Group of Eight economic summit on Sea Island in Georgia.

 

Some law enforcement and firefighter union representatives, supporters of Democrat John Kerry for president, suggested that the timing of the threat report was suspicious because of polls showing a sagging approval rating for President Bush. International Association of Firefighters President Harold Schaitberger told reporters in a conference call that the intelligence has been in the government's hands for weeks.

 

White House press secretary Scott McClellan, however, denied that there is a political aspect to the threat report.

 

"The president believes it's very important to share information appropriately," McClellan said. "We do that in a number of ways when it comes to looking at the threats we face here in the homeland." Email story

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Copyright ? 2004, The Associated Press

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My eyes rolled when I heard last night about the new terror threats. I immediately wondered if this was a planned response by the Bush team to pick up his falling approval ratings if Monday's speech didn't do the trick. Then I wondered if I was being too cynical. I concluded that Bush is becoming like the little boy who cried wolf too many times. Wouldn't it be a shame if there really was a threat and none of us gave it any credence because his administration has lost so much credibility?

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Something from one of my friends:

 

So let?s take inventory. Bush tanks his major speech on Iraq. Bush sees poll numbers that show new lows in his approval ratings. Bush makes a scapegoat of one of his leading generals in Iraq to cover for Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and his vice president. So what is the Bush White House Standard Operating Procedure to shore up its gullible base and distract the public? Why, it must be time for another terrorist warning. And as usual, to show how credible and serious this threat is, it is based on no specified evidence or threat. ....the administration has no plans to raise the threat indicator......

 

 

On another note, does anyone think AQ is trying to pull off an attack to influence elections as in Spain? Do you even think it would work?

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My eyes rolled when I heard last night about the new terror threats. I immediately wondered if this was a planned response by the Bush team to pick up his falling approval ratings if Monday's speech didn't do the trick. Then I wondered if I was being too cynical. I concluded that Bush is becoming like the little boy who cried wolf too many times. Wouldn't it be a shame if there really was a threat and none of us gave it any credence because his administration has lost so much credibility?

my thoughts exactly....

 

 

there have been how many terrorist threats since 9/11.....

 

 

 

 

soon if not already joe public is going to stop caring.

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The Spanish government didnt necessarily lose because the AQ bombings. I know a guy from Spain and he said people were really outraged that the government lied to them for basically political purposes and told them it was another group.

 

 

There is no doubt in my mind AQ wants Bush reelected. The more people that hate America the better for them.

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The Spanish government didnt necessarily lose because the AQ ings. I know a guy from Spain and he said people were really outraged that the government lied to them for basically political purposes and told them it was another group.

 

 

There is no doubt in my mind AQ wants Bush reelected. The more people that America the better for them.

Well polls before the Spanish election showed the popular party winning easily. Without the attacks, the socialists don't win. You can't deny that as far as I'm concerned.

 

Honestly, I don't think AQ really cares that much about who the president in power is. They just want to attack the Americans and Jews.

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The Spanish government didnt necessarily lose because the AQ ings. I know a guy from Spain and he said people were really outraged that the government lied to them for basically political purposes and told them it was another group.

 

 

There is no doubt in my mind AQ wants Bush reelected. The more people that America the better for them.

Well polls before the Spanish election showed the popular party winning easily. Without the attacks, the socialists don't win. You can't deny that as far as I'm concerned.

 

Honestly, I don't think AQ really cares that much about who the president in power is. They just want to attack the Americans and Jews. But the kicker is that the Spanish government blamed it on the ETA in a rush to judgment, trying to cover up any Al Qaeda involvement (as when Hizbollah involvement was concealed in the attack on the Israeli Embassy and the Asociaci?n Mutual Israelita-Argentina building in Buenos Aires by the Menem administration). And, as everyone knows, the cover-up is usually worse than the crime.

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Few thoughts...

 

Well, big terrorist attacks happen what, every 5 years now since the 80s if not less? It is only a matter of time.

 

Good point.

 

I immediately wondered if this was a planned response by the Bush team to pick up his falling approval ratings if Monday's speech didn't do the trick

 

Sigh. Not EVERYTHING is a grand consiracy. Fact is, this administration (and any other subsequent administration, be it Rep. or Dem.) Is stuck in a no-win situation. Are they to report these vague threats and diminish their collective importance b/c most of them don't happen, or should they not report these vague threats - then when one does occur they would be left holding the bag and getting blamed for not alerting the public.

 

Your conspiracy theory is a cheap shot. If this administration doesn't come out with the alert you are here crying that Bush is hiding relevant threats to the American public b/c he doesn't want to further alienate the public. You can't have it both ways.

 

But the kicker is that the Spanish government blamed it on the ETA in a rush to judgment, trying to cover up any Al Qaeda involvement (as when Hizbollah involvement was concealed in the attack on the Israeli Embassy and the Asociaci?n Mutual Israelita-Argentina building in Buenos Aires by the Menem administration). And, as everyone knows, the cover-up is usually worse than the crime.

 

Another great point. The terror attack alone didn't sway the election. It was the ruling party's efforts to politically leverage the attacks by blaming them on an existing opposition group that had nothing to do with the attacks that caused the election to turn.

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Counterterrorism is not rewarding, when you stop an attack or capture someone planning an attack it goes unheard, but when the attack happens we all hera about it. I assure you that there have been attempts that have been thwarted since 9/11. And secondly, what soriano said, people are complaining that the govt didnt do enough to warn us about 9/11 so here we go we'll get warnings for everything. And as for spain, the election was lost b/c the govt lied to the people that it was al-qaeda that attacked, however, the attack created an inbalance, and i believe they will try to do the same here, which basically shows that al qaeda does not want bush as president, lets vote bush out and do what al qaeda wants!

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