[Paleopsych] CSM: Terrorism & Security
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Wed Aug 11 22:26:09 UTC 2004
Terrorism & Security
posted August 10, 2004, updated 11:00 a.m.
Al Qaeda plots to influence US elections?
But experts split over who terrorist group wants to 'help' win.
by Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
Agence France-Presse reports on Tuesday that Pakistani intelligence
officials say they have uncovered evidence which shows Al Qaeda was
plotting a series of attacks in order to influence the 2004 US
'The network was looking to strike a major blow ahead of the
elections. Al-Qaeda was looking to strike in the United States or
its chief allies Great Britain and Pakistan,' said the official,
asking to remain anonymous. 'The period before the US presidential
elections was very critical,' said the official, who has played a
key role in a crackdown against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan over the past
month which has netted over 20 suspected operatives.
And Time magazine on Monday quoted a top Homeland Security official as
saying that intelligence agencies have "... a number of times picked
up information that Al Qaeda wants to attack us before the
election, and some of the communications attribute that desire to
Osama Bin Laden.
But security experts and political commentators have been split over
whom Al Qaeda wants to win the 2004 US presidential elections: US
President George Bush or his Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry.
In June CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who writes under the
pseudonym "Anonymous," told the British newspaper the Guardian that Al
Qaeda couldn't have a better administration in place in terms of
achieving its goals. Mr. Scheuer believes that the president is
"taking the US in exactly the direction Bin Laden wants, towards
all-out confrontation with Islam under the banner of spreading
'I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them
than the one they have now,' he said. 'One way to keep the
Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the
country around the president.'
Asia Times reporter and commentator Pepe Escobar argued earlier this
year that Al Qaeda wants President Bush to remain in office because he
has become such a lightning rod for many Muslims that his
reelection would help the terror group continue to raise funds and new
Al Qaeda wants the Iraq occupation to be prolonged, with or without
a puppet government: there could not be a better advertisement for
rallying Muslims against the arrogance of the West. Al Qaeda's and
the Bush administration's future are interlocked anyway.
National Public Radio's All Things Considered (audio) also looks at Al
Qaeda's election threat, and reports it's not clear which
candidate the group wants to see in the White House. Reporter Mary
Louise Kelly interviews National Review columnist Michael Ledeen, who
believes that Al Qaeda wants a Kerry presidency. Daniel Byman,
columnist for Slate and a senior fellow at the Saban Center at the
Brookings Institution, tells Ms. Kelly he thinks Al Qaeda favors a
renewed Bush presidency, for similar reasons to those mentioned above.
But Mr. Byman says he isn't convinced a pre-election attack is in
the works at all. In fact, he wrote last week in Slate, the US is much
safer these days than at any time. National Security, he writes, is in
fact better than we might think it is.
Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland, who is also a senior
fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, wrote in late
July that the idea that Al Qaeda wants to influence the elections is
probably not true because it works against Al Qaeda's best
interests. He argues that Al Qaeda is more interested in affecting US
foreign policy, which is unlikely to change dramatically if Mr.
Kerry is elected, because "US policy is thus essential in affecting
the extent to which Muslims resent the United States more than they
hate Al Qaeda."
Meanwhile The New York Times reports Tuesday that while the capture of
computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan has resulted in a treasure
trove of information about Al Qaeda, it also shows that the
organization is much stronger and more resilient than many
For the past several months, the president has claimed that much of
Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured; the new evidence
suggests that the organization is regenerating and bringing in new
The Sunday Independent of South Africa reported Sunday on how for all
the attention paid to the border region of Pakistan by US and local
troops, and despite the recent captures of Al Qaeda members, it
seems that "Osama bin Laden has pulled off one of the greatest
disappearing acts in history." The paper also quotes members of the
Pakistani opposition parties who allege that Pakistan President
General Pervez Musharraf doesn't really want to capture the Al
"There is a view among some that they don't really want to pick OBL
[Osama bin Laden] up, because if they do, then Musharraf would lose
his utility to the US," says Sherry Rehman, an opposition member of
Pakistan government officials say the are not even focusing on Bin
Laden, who they claim is not able to operate effectively. AFP reports
that they are more interested in two other Al Qaeda members that they
believe are still in their country.
"Now we are more focussed in eliminating the group and using all
our resources to track down the two real masterminds, Libyan Abu
Fajr and the Egyptian called Hamza. The information that we have
gathered now does not point to OBL's involvement in current attack
planning of the group."
The Daily Times of Pakistan also reports on how smaller terror groups
that have grown from a common belief in Al Qaeda's militant ideology
are acting like "terror franchises" and making the war on terror
much harder to fight.
"It's like McDonald's giving out franchises," said Dia'a Rashwan,
an Egyptian expert on militant groups. "All they have to do is
follow the company's manual. They don't consult with headquarters
every time they want to produce a meal."
Finally, retired US Army Colonel Robert Killebrew writes in the
Washington Post that as serious a threat as Al Qaeda poses in 2004,
that threat could grow even more dangerous if Al Qaeda follow the
trajectory of similar terrorist groups in the past and becomes a
political movement in the Middle East.
To carry out short-term plans for regional terrorism, Al-Qaeda has
an almost limitless pool of manpower. But its emerging leaders will
soon realize - if they have not already - that their higher
objectives cannot be achieved by hit-and-run attacks, no matter how
devastating. For ambitions this vast, they need to transmute terror
into political legitimacy in the same way that Fatah transformed
itself into the quasigovernment of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), leading to the sight of a gun-toting Yasser
Arafat at the podium of the United Nations. Hezbollah is acquiring
political legitimacy in Syrian-dominated Lebanon, as is Hamas in
Palestine and Gaza. "Legitimacy" doesnt matter to Al-Qaeda today,
but it must have it tomorrow if it wants to stay in the game.
Did US blow cover on Al Qaeda mole?, 4.8.9
Road to Al Qaeda runs through Pakistan, 4.8.6
How safe is Iraq?, 4.8.5
o Pakistan claims '90 percent' success in terror war (Reuters)
o US denies German 9/11 retrial key witness (Reuters)
o Press welcomes Arab efforts on Sudan (BBC)
o Al-Qaeda suspect caught in UAE, Pakistan says (Newsday)
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