The U.S. official in charge of homeland security warned Thursday that al-Qaida
terrorists are planning to disrupt the presidential election process. Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge told reporters that there has been a steady stream
of recent intelligence indicating al-Qaida may try to launch an attack to coincide
with the upcoming election.
"Credible reporting now indicates that al-Qaida is moving forward with its
plans to carry out a large scale attack in the United States in an effort to
disrupt our democratic process," he said.
Mr. Ridge said U.S. officials do not have specific information about where
or when the attack might occur, but he did mention the upcoming political conventions
that include the Democrats gathering in Boston at the end of this month and
the Republicans holding their convention in New York in late August.
Mr. Ridge also said the recent arrest of terrorism suspects in Britain, Jordan
and Italy yielded new information about possible terror plots.
"What we are alluding to there is not only did they have individuals in place,
but they had the means to the end that were part of the plot," he added. "They
had the people ready to operate and they had munitions and the ability to conduct
the terrorist attack. That was all part of the apprehension."
Members of Congress were given a private briefing about the terrorism threat.
Among them was the Senate Republican Majority Leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee.
"There is obviously no reason for panic or no reason for paralysis. But the
fact that general intelligence says that the country is at some increased risk
between now and the time of the presidential election, it is important for
people to be aware of that," he noted.
Tom Ridge said the government is not raising the terror alert level, which
now stands at elevated. He also said law enforcement agencies across the country
are better prepared to deal with this latest threat than they were even a year
"This is unprecedented communication and cooperation at the national, state
and local levels," he said. "This new ability to receive and distribute critical
information allows us to make better decisions more quickly and take action
that would deter, detect and diffuse terrorist attacks."
U.S. intelligence and security officials have been concerned for months that
terrorists could try and replicate the attack they launched in March during
the Spanish elections in which nearly 200 people died.