Al Qaeda has shown no signs it plans to attack the United States during the presidential election, but the government must keep guard during the 2-1/2-month transition to a new president, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Thursday.
Chertoff added the global economic turmoil had yet to cause any visible change in al Qaeda’s strategy, although the financial crisis could reduce state and local spending on security.
He also cautioned about heated political rhetoric in “an intemperate time,” saying it could fuel violence among Americans.
“I have not seen evidence that a major element of al Qaeda’s planning is our anniversaries or our elections,” Chertoff told Reuters in an interview.
“Terrorist operations are undertaken when they are operationally ready. They don’t wait for something that’s an external event, and they don’t rush it.”
But he said, “In a transition, as people leave and new people come in, it’s human nature to have some distraction, and therefore it’s important to be extra-focused during that period so that distraction does not become a vulnerability.” The new president takes office on Jan. 20.
Al Qaeda attacks around the time of elections in Spain, Britain and Pakistan have caused some experts to warn the United States is potentially vulnerable before the Nov. 4 vote.