First, Al Qaeda seems to like disrupting elections. Spain comes immediately to mind but there was also a local election going on in New York on 9-11. With a major election coming up, we have to expect something.
But what? According to the Washington Post, the rest of an Al Qaeda operative in June indicated that they were interested in hitting financial institutions in New York City.
The al Qaeda operative, Musaad Aruchi, was arrested here on June 12 by Pakistani paramilitary forces in an operation supervised by the CIA, officials said. According to a senior Pakistani intelligence official involved in the early interrogation of the suspect, Aruchi "was sure that al Qaeda would hit New York or Washington pretty soon."
"He had with him street maps of New York City without the front cover, and addresses of some other important buildings," the official said. "There were some data CDs also recovered from him."
Next, just six days before the alert was issued, more information came to light. An Al Qaeda operative had lots of information about specific financial institutions on his hard drive. Most of the information was years old, gathered in the days before the invasion of Afghanistan disrupted Al Qaeda's operations.
The big complaint about 9-11 is that the administration did not connect the dots. Yes, they had issued alerts in 2001 but they were mainly to military bases and Americans living abroad. They never said anything about domestic airlines.
Now we have some big dots. Al Qaeda attacked America's military and financial centers on 9-11. They planned for years. Now we see that they have also been planning for years to hit other specific targets. So an alert was issued.
Where does politics fit into this?
On the other side. The Bush haters are sure that there are no threats to America. 9-11 was a one-time event, possibly orchestrated by Bush himself. Michael Moore advances this idea in F911 - that the alerts only exist to distract us while Bush accomplishes some nefarious activity.
To many of the Bush-haters, the alerts are phony, no matter how valid the evidence. Howard Dean was denouncing the alert before he even know how old the data was.
I suspect that the Democrats decided at the convention that they would immediately discount the next terrorist threat as crying wolf. The odds are in their favor. That leaves the Bush administration on the defensive.
If the Democrats are real lucky, Ridge will be reluctant to issue any more alerts. Either it will give the impression that the war on terrorism has already been won or an actual attack will happen without an accompanying alert which would assure a Kerry victory.
It's a low-risk strategy if you are an anti-Bush cynic.
There has been an illusion of safety since 9-11. Experts expected a new major attack around the Spring of 2003. It didn't happen. In America.
What has happened instead is that Al Qaeda has gone from a well-funded organization with a strong central control to a poorly financed movement. There were numerous attacks in 2003 but they were all home-grown in countries that have a significant disaffected Moslem population.
Are we safe in Fortress America? No, but we are safer than we were before Bush invaded Afghanistan. Even the invasion of Iraq has directly made us safer. Terrorists who might have tried to attack America went to Iraq instead.