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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

High Profile

According to Reuters, right-wing dropbox The Washington Times is running with a story of al Qaeda planning a "high-profile political assassination, triggered by a new message from Osama bin Laden," and followed by multiple attacks across the US.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports, speaking on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the assassination plan was among new details of al Qaeda plots and would target a U.S. or foreign leader either in the United States or abroad, according to the newspaper.

Planning for the attacks to follow involves "multiple targets in multiple venues" across the United States, one official was quoted as saying.

"The goal of the next attack is twofold: to damage the U.S. economy and to undermine the U.S. election," the official told the newspaper.

The article even alludes to whispers that the bin Laden tape may have already been uncovered. The source of this new and troubling information?

The Washington Times reported that the plot was among detailed al Qaeda plans found on a laptop computer belonging to captured al Qaeda suspect Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan.

Information from Khan, a computer expert, prompted the United States to issue a new security alert for financial institutions in Washington, New York and New Jersey and led to the arrest of a dozen al Qaeda suspects in Britain.

Khan's capture was part of a Pakistani crackdown, which began a month ago and has dealt al Qaeda a major blow.

We'll see what sort of blow has been dealt to al Qaeda, hopefully a devastating one, but the consensus seems to be that whoever had leaked Khan's name to the media compromised what could have been an invaluable source moving forward, and outing him ultimately hurt the US much more than those who would do us harm. If this information is correct, it would only serve to underscore the loss.

While the Washington Times is what it is, there is a history of valid intelligence leaks to, and subsequent scoops for the paper, and should not be immediately discounted. I shudder to think of the consequences should al Qaeda'a assassination target be either Kerry or Bush. Either way, the result would be disastrous, regardless of outcome.

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