WASHINGTON, D.C. Election day could be more of a “millennium-type” nightmare than the transition a few years ago into the new millennium actually proved to be. An August 8 story in The New York Times suggesting that the capture of a Pakistani who had been in touch with a group planning to disrupt U.S.elections was not the first such revelation—and all of them have been based on the usual unnamed supposedly high-level officials.
The Web has been buzzing with speculation about how the Bush forces could rig the November election by using terrorist warnings to reduce the vote in various localities and by stealing the results through the big voting-machine companies, which already have been shown to not only make their own errors but whose computers can be hacked mercilessly. Bush officials have talked on and off about an election threat, and Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, mentioned a plot to disrupt the democratic processes.
These suspicions are supposedly fueled by Al Qaeda surveillance of financial institutions and government buildings in Manhattan and elsewhere in 2001 and since. They seem to be based on the work of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani computer whiz, who was arrested last month, but who supposedly had been helping the U.S. figure out a terrorist threat to strike within the U.S. He reportedly had become a mole for the U.S. His cover was abruptly blown last week, possibly to help Bush administration officials fan the public’s fear.
Robert Killebrew, a retired army infantry colonel who often writes and speaks about defense and national security matters, predicted Sunday in The Washington Post that Al Qaeda will plan more attacks on the Madrid model, in which a terrorist act is hooked to a political event in order to accomplish maximum effect. And that while Al Qaeda is bashing Middle East and Western governments it doesn’t like, it will also try to gain support of the street Muslims by entering politics and sooner or later putting its own people into high positions within different governments. “If, as I expect,” writes Killebrew, “Al Qaeda makes the transition in the coming decade from a deadly, popular but rootless terrorist grouping to the sitting government of a number of countries, this heroic theme will inspire their governing institutions, including regular military and paramilitary forces and will become part of the pan-Arab, anti-crusader tradition.”
It is doubtless coincidental that the U.S. government’s very public fears of being attacked during the elections could well enhance the current administration’s position within said elections. For example, if voters are fearful, or more likely, if voting becomes too much of a hassle, they won’t bother to cast a ballot. Lowering an already low turnout would place more stress on each party’s core. The GOP’s strength lies in its fevered base, especially among the fundamentalist Christians, who now can see themselves quite literally as making war with the evil Muslims.
Additional reporting: Alicia Ng and Diana Ferrero