An AQ October Surprise?

posted at 8:45 am on September 23, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Is al-Qaeda preparing to disrupt American elections in November, or to influence them through attacks in October?  Eli Lake reports on an uptick in communication seen by some in the intel community during the conventions, instructing cells to prepare for operational instructions.  Rather than specific plans, though, the messages intended to alert members to watch for further instructions:

In the aftermath of two major terrorist attacks on Western targets, America’s counterterrorism community is warning that Al Qaeda may launch more overseas operations to influence the presidential elections in November.

Call it Osama bin Laden’s “October surprise.” In late August, during the weekend between the Democratic and Republican conventions, America’s military and intelligence agencies intercepted a series of messages from Al Qaeda’s leadership to intermediate members of the organization asking local cells to be prepared for imminent instructions.

An official familiar with the new intelligence said the message was picked up in multiple settings, from couriers to encrypted electronic communications to other means. “These are generic orders,” the source said — a distinction from the more specific intelligence about the location, time, and method of an attack. “It was, ‘Be on notice. We may call upon you soon.’ It was sent out on many channels.”

This would fit the AQ pattern.  They recently conducted a successful attack in Pakistan that destroyed the Marriott Hotel, which may have targeted the newly-elected President Zardari.  AQ likes to attack around elections, either before the actual vote as in the Madrid attack or afterwards, as when Gordon Brown first took office.  They succeeded in killing Benazir Bhutto last year when she was widely expected to win a new term as Prime Minister.

They’ve tried to influence US elections in the past as well.  The Kerry campaign believed that an Osama bin Laden videotape released in the final days of the 2004 election may have given George Bush enough of a boost to win re-election, but that seems hard to credit, especially since Kerry had spent most of the campaign blaming Bush for not capturing Osama.  Analysts debate what effect an attack during the last days of this election would have, but it likely would prove a wash.  Those inclined to think that Bush let bin Laden off the hook would already be voting for Barack Obama, and those who think Obama doesn’t know how to keep the country safe would already be voting for John McCain.

What could they do?  Lake reports that counterterrorism experts don’t believe AQ has the strength to conduct a major attack inside the United States now, but they could attack American assets elsewhere in the world.  They could try another attack on an American embassy after their failure in Yemen earlier this month.  American military targets abound throughout the Middle East, but they have had enough trouble hitting those in war zones.  Softer targets may be more attractive to them now — such as Marriott hotels or commercial ventures.

Previous concerns in 2004 and 2006 wound up being non-events, thanks to diligence in our counterterrorism forces and weakness in AQ.  Hopefully, in 2008 the most we’ll see is another videotape of bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri giving the radical Islamist slant on American elections.


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Hopefully, in 2008 the most we’ll see is another videotape of bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri giving the radical Islamist slant on American elections.

Or Adam Gadead spread over a wide area.

aunursa on September 23, 2008 at 8:48 AM

It worked in Spain and they elected a spineless liberal. This is not Spain.

volsense on September 23, 2008 at 8:51 AM

Let me guess – they believe that by launching a series of attacks they would swing the election to Obama.

Are these people really that stupid?

Perhaps Osama will release a video endorsing Obama and threatening violence unless he is elected. Yeah, that would do the trick.

Steve_Roberts on September 23, 2008 at 8:51 AM

It is just a right wing plot to sway the elections.

tomas on September 23, 2008 at 8:52 AM

Wouldn’t a pre-election attack work in McCain’s favour, so to speak? As in, reminding America that Hopey McChangey isn’t the best choice for fighting the enemy? Which, as it happens, would make BO the best choice for AQ, since his dopiness would likely make things easier for them…

Frozen Tex on September 23, 2008 at 8:53 AM

O-Bambi should take time off from the campaign trail and ask to sit down with AQ, to reason (read beg) with them, without preconditions. He could do it – He’s The One! Right?

AubieJon on September 23, 2008 at 8:54 AM

What Steve said.
They have to know McCain equals more Predator strikes from out of nowhere.

hippie_chucker on September 23, 2008 at 8:54 AM

How long before George Will starts shilling for this guy?

You really have to wonder just what is it that goes on at those insider Washington cocktail parties that all these guys get so hooked on that they feel compelled to lose all reason and logic. I used to think “drink the Kool-Aid” was just a saying… now I think there punch bowl must truly be spiked with LSD.

CC

CapedConservative on September 23, 2008 at 8:58 AM

Does anyone else think it’s really not the best idea to be publishing what our intelligence agencies hear of Al Qaeda’s internal communications?

Either what we’re hearing is false, or else it tips off Al Qaeda to the compromised state of (some of) their communications — giving them a chance to patch up the leaks before the more detailed messages follow.

Perhaps this is a leak intended to give them confidence in the secrecy of some other message stream that we have intercepted — or something like that. But given all of the leaks from the CIA that we’ve seen in the last eight years…

ClintACK on September 23, 2008 at 8:59 AM

There is a long history of underestimating the United States. Going way back – both the Germans and the Japanese were convinced that the Americans would not fight, and could not endure more than a ‘bloody nose’ before beating a retreat.

To date we’ve nearly always proven them wrong – been “the Strong Horse” as Osama would say.

Obama represents change to the extent his goal is that we should become, instead, the weak horse.

“If you wish peace, prepare for war.” – Cicero

Steve_Roberts on September 23, 2008 at 9:00 AM

Yep, this is one time the Democrats are praying (do they do that?) nothing bad happens to American interests before the election.

Financial crisis? no problem.
Iraq/Afgan casualties? the more the better.
AQ attack in the U.S.? Uh Oh.

capitano on September 23, 2008 at 9:03 AM

It would be so funny if Obama slipped up during a speech and referred to Republicans as Infidels.

jeff_from_mpls on September 23, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Are these people really that stupid? – Steve

Lucky for us, yes thy are. They don’t understand this country, as Vol said, we’re not Spain. If they had any brains, they’d say “If America votes for Obama, we will declare peace” and then attack on Jan. 5th.

Tony737 on September 23, 2008 at 9:04 AM

Hitler didn’t threaten the Ardennes Offensive, he just did it.

AQ is conducting its operations by courrier now, which is why their attacks are limited in geographic scope. Not that they couldn’t put guys with shotguns in US malls on 10/31, but Sun Tzu might agree that their threats against targets outside their neighborhood signal inability to perform outside their own neighborhood.

Speaking of which, did you see all those Muslim protests against that bombing of the Marriott?

Akzed on September 23, 2008 at 9:06 AM

Is that AQ guy growing a horn in the middle of his forehead?

AubieJon on September 23, 2008 at 9:10 AM

And yet Code Pinkos are awfully quiet about
this AQ threat!!

canopfor on September 23, 2008 at 9:12 AM

Hasn’t it been reported every election year that AQ planned an October surprise every October??? And this would only help McCain.

I think we have had our September surprise (that is still going to keep surprising us for months to come) courtesy of a combination of Greenspan’s past actions/inactions and the Govt. and greedy investment banker types with the collapse of the banking sector.
A $750,000,000,000 surprise.

AQ along with all the liberals and socialists and communists are hoping for a November surprise…that Obama gets elected.

albill on September 23, 2008 at 9:15 AM

Are these people really that stupid? – Steve

Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it. Maybe they believe that McCain will be blamed…somehow. That will work for the nutburgers on the left, but will it work with the masses? I tend to think not.

SKYFOX on September 23, 2008 at 9:16 AM

Remember Spain. Al Qaeda bombed the Madrid trains days before the election, and then the socialist won and withdrew from Iraq.

indythinker on September 23, 2008 at 9:16 AM

Jean-Francois Kerre` sat down with the North Vietnamese while the war still raged and got himself a nice statue in their Hall of Fame. Perhaps if Barry O sits down with Zayman and the Ghost of Osama before the election, they’ll give him a small rock near the Ka’aba as Barry’s thank you?

GeneSmith on September 23, 2008 at 9:19 AM

Not that they couldn’t put guys with shotguns in US malls on 10/31,…
Akzed on September 23

Never happen, Akzed. Malls are gun-free zones.

SKYFOX on September 23, 2008 at 9:19 AM

ould someone tell me why that bearded s.o.b. is still breathing, let alone having a light kit and camera?

johnnyU on September 23, 2008 at 9:20 AM

indythinker on September 23, 2008

I’d like to think that Americans are made of sterner stuff.
BTW, what part of the Hoosier state are you in…or does “indy” stand for “independent” in your moniker?

SKYFOX on September 23, 2008 at 9:21 AM

Is that AQ guy growing a horn in the middle of his forehead?

AubieJon on September 23, 2008 at 9:10 AM

It’s a bruise caused by bumping into stalactites.

RedWinged Blackbird on September 23, 2008 at 9:21 AM

It doesn’t make any sense to be attacking America right now, but Israel is another matter entirely. With Egypt and Lebanon building up their arms, and the Israeli govt in disarray, It would not surprise me if Israel was attacked in October/November. America would be caught flat-footed, no matter who wins the election.

OldEnglish on September 23, 2008 at 9:22 AM

There is a long history of underestimating the United States. Going way back – both the Germans and the Japanese were convinced that the Americans would not fight, and could not endure more than a ‘bloody nose’ before beating a retreat.

To date we’ve nearly always proven them wrong – been “the Strong Horse” as Osama would say.

Steve_Roberts on September 23, 2008 at 9:00 AM

Ahem. Vietnam. Beirut. Somalia.

That sort of behavior is what AQ is counting on — that when the going gets tough, America will retreat across the ocean.

unclesmrgol on September 23, 2008 at 9:23 AM

An attack favors McCain.

If it happens, prepare for the wingbat conspiracies.

moxie_neanderthal on September 23, 2008 at 9:33 AM

Is that AQ guy growing a horn in the middle of his forehead?

AubieJon on September 23, 2008 at 9:10 AM

I asked that a couple of months ago and some HotAir friends told me that is a bruise from him hitting his head on the ground during Muslim prayers. The bruise supposedly proves what a devoted Muslim he is.

In other words, the original headbanger.

txsurveyor on September 23, 2008 at 9:34 AM

Anything that brings national security back to the forefront would help McCain since he scores much higher than Obama in that area. This is not Spain.

rsrobinson on September 23, 2008 at 9:40 AM

It worked in Spain and they elected a spineless liberal. This is not Spain.

volsense on September 23, 2008 at 8:51 AM

I think it was a backlash from the government initially blaming it on a Spanish terrorist group (ETA, if I correctly recall). People tend to not like being intentionally and openly mislead by their elected officials.

eforhan on September 23, 2008 at 9:44 AM

Or Adam Gadead spread over a wide area.

aunursa on September 23, 2008 at 8:48 AM

Dead or alive, that fat slob is already spread over a wide area.

CurtZHP on September 23, 2008 at 9:44 AM

We need to continue to be on our guard–especially in Iraq and Afghanistan as I think those are the two likeliest spots for an “October Surprise”–more so than in the States, although we should never rule that out.

Matt Helm on September 23, 2008 at 9:46 AM

They saw what happened to them after 9/11. Can they be that dumb as to do the same thing, or at least attempt it, and think the results will be different?

Jeez, Al Qaeda thinks exactly like liberal Democrats.

J.J. Sefton on September 23, 2008 at 9:49 AM

AQ and Iran do not want a pacifist as president.

They want Holy War.

A pacifist is not going to bring that about. If they get a Hawk elected then then they can use Holy War to unite the Muslims world wide against the west and Isreal.

Rick007 on September 23, 2008 at 9:58 AM

Saudi oil infastructure. Oil = $200 a barrel.

Griz on September 23, 2008 at 10:02 AM

Obama has the money ready, all he needs is and address to send to.

tarpon on September 23, 2008 at 10:04 AM

Saudi oil infastructure. Oil = $200 a barrel.

Griz on September 23, 2008 at 10:02 AM

I could live with that, if it helped to make energy independence a reality.

OldEnglish on September 23, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Keep talking, Ayman. We got a little surprise waiting for you too.

SoulGlo on September 23, 2008 at 10:14 AM

Is that AQ guy growing a horn in the middle of his forehead?

AubieJon on September 23, 2008 at 9:10 AM

It’s from banging his head on the floor praying to Ba’al.

/really, it is.

Sefton on September 23, 2008 at 10:14 AM

Ya want energency independence? Throw the Dem’s out.

Rick007 on September 23, 2008 at 10:14 AM

I am sick of playing Ayman Says. Let’s shag this motherf&$#2ker.

Yule Gagonit on September 23, 2008 at 10:31 AM

Steve Roberts,
“There is a long history of underestimating the United States.”

And the South and the North both underestimated the other, too!

exhelodrvr on September 23, 2008 at 10:38 AM

AQ Dude #1: “We need to make a statement coming up to the elections. Where do you think we should strike the U.S.?”

AQ Dude #2: “How about an embassy in Africa, or a kindergarten in Germany or a Red Cross Center in Iraq?”

AQ Dude #1: “WTF, shouldn’t we attack their homeland?”

AQ Dude #2: “The last time we did that, we ended up with 10,000 of our jihadist brothers killed in Iraq.”

AQ Dude #1: “How about a McDonalds in Tokyo?”

AQ Dude #2: “That’ll work. Praise Allah.”

……. gutless cowards, they are.

fogw on September 23, 2008 at 10:46 AM

I am gonna be ticked if they target Goldman Sachs.

angelat0763 on September 23, 2008 at 11:16 AM

All the bluster is a little pathetic when Al Qaeda couldn’t mount a U.S. operation to drop cherry bombs down public restroom toilets.

Cicero43 on September 23, 2008 at 11:38 AM

They should pray that Obama gets elected THEN attack. Obama would probably send them aid as poverty forces them into terrorism.

craig on September 23, 2008 at 11:56 AM

A nuke in Mecca would be nice.

saved on September 23, 2008 at 12:41 PM

ROVE !

RocketmanBob on September 23, 2008 at 4:01 PM

saved on September 23, 2008 at 12:41 PM

A low-yeild MK-43…yes…nice bright colors…

jerrytbg on September 23, 2008 at 5:41 PM

Tom Tancredo’s Jihad Protection Act
In response to shariah courts being legalized in the U.K., Congressman Tom Tancredo has proposed the following:

“Jihad Prevention Act” would deny U.S. visas to advocates of ‘Sharia’ law, expel Islamists already here.

WASHINGTON, DC – Amid disturbing revelations that the verdicts of Islamic Sharia courts are now legally binding in civil cases in the United Kingdom, U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton) moved quickly today to introduce legislation designed to protect the United States from a similar fate.

According to recent news reports, a new network of Sharia courts in a half-dozen major cities in the U.K. have been empowered under British law to adjudicate a wide variety of legal cases ranging from divorces and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

“This is a case where truth is truly stranger than fiction,” said Tancredo. “Today the British people are learning a hard lesson about the consequences of massive, unrestricted immigration.”

Sharia law, favored by Muslim extremists around the world, often calls for brutal punishment – such as the stoning of women who are accused of adultery or have children out of wedlock, cutting off the hands of petty thieves and lashings for the casual consumption of alcohol. Under Sharia law, a woman is often required to provide numerous witnesses to prove rape allegations against an assailant – a near impossible task.

“When you have an immigration policy that allows for the importation of millions of radical Muslims, you are also importing their radical ideology – an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the foundations of western democracy – such as gender equality, pluralism, and individual liberty,” said Tancredo. “The best way to safeguard America against the importation of the destructive effects of this poisonous ideology is to prevent its purveyors from coming here in the first place.”

Tancredo’s bill, dubbed the “Jihad Prevention Act,” would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law. In addition, the legislation would make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.

Tancredo pointed to the results of a recent poll conducted by the Centre for Social Cohesion as evidence that the U.S. should act to prevent the situation in Great Britain from replicating itself here in the United States. The poll found that some 40 percent of Muslim students in the United Kingdom support the introduction of Sharia law there, and 33 percent support the imposition of an Islamic Sharia-based government worldwide.

“We need to send a clear message that the only law we recognize here in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by our democratically elected representatives,” concluded Tancredo. “If you aren’t comfortable with that concept, you aren’t welcome in the United States.”
Now with all these Muslim immigrants, how do we weed out the religious fanatics
Completely off topic but relevant

sonnyspats1 on September 23, 2008 at 6:30 PM

sonnyspats1 on September 23, 2008 at 6:30 PM

Tancredo defines patriotism…The man obviously reads euro news… as we ALL should!!

jerrytbg on September 23, 2008 at 7:16 PM