Al-Qaida or affiliated groups probably will attack the United States in the months after the election to “welcome” the new president, says Frederick Stremmel, a former top FBI counterterrorism analyst.
Stremmel, who retired from the FBI a year ago after working the major counterterrorism cases for 25 years, tells Newsmax that al-Qaida would not attack before the election.
“They know our weaknesses and in some cases how to impact public opinion,” he says. “The best example is the timing of the Madrid bombings which occurred near election day in Spain. The Madrid attacks probably impacted the Spanish elections and ultimately led to diminished Spanish government support of U.S. foreign policy.”
Al-Qaida knows that an attack before the election would help elect Republican Sen. John McCain, Stremmel says. The terrorists would prefer Democratic Sen. Barack Obama because they believe he would “swing the pendulum back” to more lenient anti-terrorism policies, Stremmel says.
“The months following the election or inauguration of the new administration is prime time for an attack,” he says. “They will want to impact the new administration and its policies. There is a history of Islamic terrorists wanting to make life miserable for successive administrations.”
That is why al-Qaida attacked the U.S. less than eight months after President Bush took office.
“I do not think the timing of the 9/11 attacks came out of the blue,” Stremmel says. “I have always thought that al-Qaida wanted to attack the new administration that followed Clinton’s. I think a goal of al-Qaida was to attack within a year of the new administration taking power.”
Al-Qaida sees the economic crisis as another reason to attack soon.
Al-Qaida is “looking at the current financial meltdown in the United States and the West,” Stremmel says. “They know the United States is spending itself to death. Through terrorist attacks, they will want to try and get us into a bigger economic hole. Never forget that Bin Laden’s first job was business and finance related.”
The most likely target will be the domestic U.S., Stremmel says. However, he says the FBI does not believe al-Quaida has a presence in this country. But an attack such as al-Quaida’s 2006 effort to take down nine American airliners flying to the U.S. would have an effect on the economy as severe as an attack here, Stremmel notes.
“If my analysis is on the mark, al-Quaida has already chosen its target and the time to stage an attack,” he says.
James R. Fitzgerald, a former FBI profiler who interviewed terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and has had access to al-Qaida documents, agrees with Stremmel’s assessment.
“I believe the most dangerous time in the near future for this country will be between Election Day and President Bush’s last day in office,” says Fitzgerald, who now is with the Academy Group in Manassas, Va., which provides profiling services for private industry.
Al-Qaida knows that, if it attacked before the election, “It would get McCain elected,” Fitzgerald says. “For obvious reasons, they would much prefer Obama.”
Fitzgerald adds, “They would love to be able to claim for all perpetuity that despite Bush’s best efforts to suppress the terrorists, he did not prevent another 9/11 event. If it’s going to happen, it would be between roughly Nov. 4 and Jan. 20.”
But Kevin R. Brock, a former FBI agent who was principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, disagrees with the theories. Although speculation about attacks timed to the election may seem logical and rational, Brock says, “Al-Qaida is neither, and so far has not followed such dependable, predictive patterns. Could it happen? Sure. But my sense is that any such prediction would be based more on luck than hard intelligence. We have much more intelligence on what they like to target as opposed to when they like to target.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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