WASHINGTON – The United States is tightening security in the face of a steady stream of intelligence indicating Al Qaeda (search) may seek to mount an attack aimed at disrupting elections, the White House said.
The Department of Homeland Security is addressing the threat and has efforts under way to "ramp up security," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) told reporters that Americans should not expect a major announcement on homeland security any time soon, indicating that the nation's threat level could remain at its "elevated" level.
"There's, obviously, no reason for panic, or paralysis," Frist said after a briefing for senators on intelligence matters. "The country is at some increased risk between now and the time of the presidential election. It's important for people to be aware of that."
"What is clear is that law enforcement has generally been notified. ... There are enhanced activities on behalf of law enforcement around the country to engage in deterrence and prevention," he said.
In April, a working group made up of representatives from agencies that touch on law enforcement, homeland security and intelligence was established to deal with a series of events through the election that may be attractive targets for terrorists, including the presidential nominating conventions.
Senior administration officials and counterterrorism experts view the coming months as a time to increase vigilance out of concern that Islamic militants may try to replicate the political success they had in Spain with coordinated pre-election train bombings.
Nearly 200 died in the March attack (search), and the prime minister's ruling Popular Party lost to a rival who promised a pullout of Spanish troops from Iraq.
Elaborate plans are already in the works to protect the Republican and Democratic party conventions in New York and Boston, which have been classified as National Security Special Events. With the designation — a concept that evolved from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta — comes federal funds, increased preparations and heightened security.