LAPD Chief Warns of Pre-Election Attack

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 23 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Well, Bill Bratton of LAPD is warning that Osama bin Laden may seek to sway American voters with a pre-election attack. That would mean something within the next 12 days, of course. Bratton co-wrote an article about this, about this warning with R.P. Eddy, who is a former director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He joins us now.

R.P., welcome. You know, a lot of folks hear this, they say, oh, you know, that's just sort of, you know, fearmongering that something's going to happen before the election. How much of a likelihood do you think that that is?

R.P. EDDY, FORMER NAT'L SECURITY COUNCIL DIR.: Well, I couldn't give you a number and neither could Chief Bratton. But I think what we believe is there's a couple of dynamics happening right now that makes it a very tempting time for al-Qaeda to try to attack the United States.

Video: Watch Martha's interview with R.P. Eddy

But first, it's the election. We know that bin Laden has a history of trying to manipulate elections. We've seen that a couple of times. And the second thing is the fact that our economy is having a tough time. And we also bin Laden sort of fantasizes over trying to manipulate the U.S. economy. And he may think that an attack now would have knock — an affect to knock our economy down even further. He talks about that strategy publicly.

MACCALLUM: And, you know, it is strange that we have heard nothing from him running up to this. What does it — what does it tell you?

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EDDY: Well, it could mean any number of things. I mean, a very paranoid way of looking at it would be that they are maintaining silence until they're at something very large, and something large could be an attack, God forbid, or could actually just be a statement like he released before the Bush-Kerry election.

MACCALLUM: Right. A couple of days before, right?

EDDY: That's right. It was just to the eve of, or actually was around Halloween, if I remember correctly. And that release — that statement by bin Laden was interpreted by CIA as well as by President Bush himself to have driven a number of voters towards Bush and away from Kerry.

MACCALLUM: And what kind of impact do you think it would have on this election if we were to suddenly hear from Osama bin Laden?

EDDY: Well, I think, what we believe is that an attack now, I think it's not unlikely, or let me put it this way — I think that bin Laden may believe that an attack now would drive votes towards McCain. I think that might be al-Qaeda's read of the U.S. populace. And we know they pay attention to electoral polling as well as some pretty arcane polling data. We know that bin Laden reads that stuff.

So, he may believe an attack would drive voters towards McCain. But what would actually happen, I don't know, and I hope we never have to find out. In fact, it could go the other way. We, in fact, we could have an attack that led people to say, God, bin Laden is still out there, we haven't caught this guy and we should want more repudiation.


MACCALLUM: You know, al-Qaeda would love to hit the United States, regardless of the day or time, and that when they have the capability, that maybe the most important thing is ability to strike and that when they felt that it was that moment, they would want to take advantage of it, regardless of the time?

EDDY: I think there's a combination of sort of strategic planning and, as you say, ability as well as opportunity. And the three things, you know, may line up or may not line up. We don't know — I don't know what their ability is to attack right now. But I tend to believe, and Chief Bratton and I tend to believe, now would be a very attractive time for them to attack.


EDDY: Now, remember, we're not talking just about an attack. I think that's the extreme opportunity. What we're really talking about was likely a statement.


EDDY: . as we had previously.

MACCALLUM: An attempt to influence.

EDDY: Right. And let's not forget, they, of course, did attack in Spain and that did change the election.

MACCALLUM: Yes. That was a phenomenal event.

EDDY: That's right.


EDDY: That threw people towards president — away from Aznar.

MACCALLUM: It has a huge impact.

All right. R.P., very interesting. Always good to see you. Thank you very much.

EDDY: Nice to see you, too, Martha. Thanks.

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