Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said terrorist groups are more likely to try to take advantage of a new president and administration by launching an attack during the next six months.
“Any period of transition creates a greater vulnerability, meaning there's more likelihood of distraction,” Chertoff said in an interview with Bloomberg.com.
“You have to be concerned it will create an operational opportunity for terrorists.”
He said that would be true whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain is elected president, undercutting McCain's argument that the U.S. would be more likely to be attacked if Obama wins.
“We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars,” McCain said Tuesday at a rally in Pennsylvania.
Chertoff noted that he didn't know of any specific threat to the nation linked to the election or transition.
But on March 11, 2004, three days before Spain’s general elections, an al-Qaeda cell set off 10 bombs targeting passenger trains in Madrid, killing more than 190 people.
And former CIA Director George Tenet wrote in his memoir that at the time, the agency believed that Osama bin Laden had “himself assessed that a logical time to attack the United States was just before the U.S. election.”
Chertoff also expressed concerned about the rhetoric from some hate groups or individuals during the current campaign.
“There's a general level of intemperateness in the discussion as we approach the election,” he told Bloomberg. “Do I worry that it could trigger in a disturbed individual a desire to do something? Absolutely, I worry about it.”
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