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October 24, 2004
FBI Disputes CIA's Election-Terror Conclusion

Earlier this week, the CIA expressed its doubts that terrorists planned any kind of operation against the US to impact our elections, a conclusion heralded by the Left as an indictment against the administration for employing "scare tactics". However, the AP reports today that the FBI has drawn the opposite conclusion based on a large number of interviews and ongoing investigations:

FBI investigators have made new arrests and developed leads that reinforce concerns that terrorists plan to strike around the presidential election, officials said Saturday, even though the CIA has discredited a person who told its agents of such a plot involving al-Qaida.

A senior FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the leads were culled from interviews with thousands of individuals that agents have conducted in the Muslim community. The official would not be more specific, but said the FBI continues to have misgivings about possible al-Qaida intentions to launch an attack with the goal of affecting the elections.

Several people have been taken into custody recently on charges not related to terrorism, but officials are investigating whether they may have been involved in terror activities, said another law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

I never understood either the CIA's position or the general acceptance of its statement among those who normally array themselves against the CIA. The CIA based its conclusion on one source who wound up being discredited, but apparently never checked with the FBI, which was pursuing its own sources and leads. Nor did it take into account simple common sense; in major Western elections this year, al-Qaeda attacked the assets of the countries just short of their elections (Spain and Australia). How could the CIA so easily dismiss the pattern?

Nor does the left's sudden embrace of the CIA make much sense, either. After castigating them for the better part of a year over its conclusions that Saddam had maintained vast stockpiles of WMD, all of a sudden Langley has become for them the new location of the Delphi Oracle. As with most of us, the left likes a source when it affirms their beliefs, but a little critical thinking would go a long way. It underscores their belief that our "struggle" with terrorists, as the Star Tribune put it yesterday, doesn't amount to war and therefore our enemies have no strategic vision, a conclusion belied in the Madrid attack and the bombing of the Australian embassies the week before their election.

Hopefully, our national-security agencies will intercept and disrupt any attempt to target Americans at home or abroad in the next nine days and make the entire argument moot. The CIA's position that no threat exists does not fill me with confidence that they are positioned to do that. Having the FBI with its eye on the ball may not be enough, especially for our assets overseas. Langley should consult with Quantico as soon as possible to ensure that nothing slips through the defenses.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 24, 2004 10:55 AM

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