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The AP reports that US intelligence has "highly credible" information that al-Qaeda terrorists plan on staging a large attack or series of attacks in America this summer:
U.S. officials have obtained new intelligence deemed highly credible indicating al-Qaida or other terrorists are in the United States and preparing to launch a major attack this summer, The Associated Press has learned. The intelligence does not include a time, place or method of attack but is among the most disturbing received by the government since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a senior federal counterterrorism official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
Of most concern, the official said, is that terrorists may possess and use a chemical, biological or radiological weapon that could cause much more damage and casualties than a conventional bomb.
"There is clearly a steady drumbeat of information that they are going to attack and hit us hard," said the official, who described the intelligence as highly credible.
The article goes on to note several possible venues for the attacks, such as the nominating conventions in Boston and New York. However, the conventions have prepared for the possibility of attacks and designed security in conjunction with the Secret Service, the FBI, and probably every other government agency with initials. The FBI thinks that the terrorists may go after softer targets this time, more difficult to defend and with a higher number of civilians around. One possible type of target mentioned is a shopping mall -- and the largest in the country sits within a 15-minute drive of my house.
Be prepared for an orange-alert summer. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for suspicious individuals, and make sure you keep the FBI tip site or the phone number for the closest office handy if you spot people appearing to "case" a site.
UPDATE: More from the Washington Post this morning:
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III intend to hold a joint news conference this afternoon to discuss the threat and to ask Americans to watch for several suspected al Qaeda operatives who may be in the country, officials said.
The concerns are driven by intelligence deemed credible that was obtained about a month ago indicating an attack may be planned between now and Labor Day. That information dovetails with other intelligence "chatter" suggesting that al Qaeda operatives are pleased with the change in government resulting from the March 11 terrorist bombings in Spain and may want to affect elections in the United States and other countries.
"They saw that an attack of that nature can have economic and political consequences and have some impact on the electoral process," said one federal official with access to counterterrorism intelligence.
Spain's election hinged on several issues, notably the short-term opinion that the Aznar government tried to deflect blame towards the Basque separatist group ETA initially, but as we all predicted, the terrorists saw the election results as a vindication of their bombing. The Spanish electorate has condemned the Western nations to more of the same tactic. Remember to thank them when the attack comes.
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