Al Qaeda: Plans for an October Surprise?
Is Osama bin Laden going to weigh in on the midterm elections? A senior counterterrorism official, anonymous, like other officials NEWSWEEK spoke to, because the subject is sensitive, says that based on previous patterns—such as the release of a rare bin Laden tape just before the 2004 presidential vote—a message before Election Day wouldn't be surprising. Private expert Evan Kohlmann, who consults for the Feds on terror probes, says Al Qaeda has lately released tapes at a rate of two or three per month. This month, he says, they are "short by one or two," so he thinks a pre-election message is a "very good likelihood." Another U.S. official says intel experts believe Al Qaeda wants to be "relevant" to the U.S. political process. But a third counterterror official says "we don't have any indication" Osama & Co. are about to surface. Spokesmen for the FBI and Homeland Security Department said they were unaware of specific intel foreshadowing an attack on U.S. soil before the elections. Overseas, the threat is more ominous: reports of a possible attack on Saudi oil installations (which could raise U.S. gas prices). The perpetrators would probably be Saudi Qaeda affiliates; methods could include truck or boat bombs. U.S. agencies are not certain of the threat's credibility, an official said.
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