26 May 2004

U.S. Warns Of Al Qaeda Threat This Summer

U.S. Warns Of Al Qaeda Threat This Summer (washingtonpost.com):

Agents in Country Said To Be Planning Attack

By Susan Schmidt and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers

Federal officials have information suggesting that al Qaeda has people in the United States preparing to mount a large-scale terrorist attack this summer, sources familiar with the information said yesterday.

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.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials are trying to strengthen security at the presidential nominating conventions this summer in Boston and New York. They are also concerned about the possible targeting of other prominent events, starting with the World War II Memorial ceremony Saturday in the District, the Group of Eight summit June 8-10 in Sea Island, Ga., and the Summer Olympic Games in August in Athens.

Federal officials have been discussing raising the national threat level between now and Jan. 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, although Homeland Security Department officials said yesterday that no such announcement is scheduled.

The Justice Department and the FBI plan to ask for the public's help today in locating several suspected terrorist sympathizers, including some whose names have not been made public before."

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