Washington Al-Qaida's threat to attack the United States before the Nov. 2 election is geared less toward affecting the outcome of the presidential race than toward making a violent statement to Islamic extremists worldwide, senior counterterrorism officials said Monday.
The officials said the network's aim in the United States, and in other countries as well, was mainly to disrupt the democratic process in a more general sense.
"Striking America at a time of heightened sensitivity, perhaps they would see that as a feather in their cap," said one senior administration official, who along with three others briefed reporters on condition of anonymity Monday about the pre-election threat.
The official said that while intelligence repeatedly indicated that al-Qaida operatives opposed President Bush, no evidence had been found that they hoped a successful attack might boost the candidacy of Democrat John Kerry. The anti-Bush sentiments, the official said, are part of a broader hatred of the United States and Western democracies.
"It's really not for our consumption," the official said of the motive behind the attack. "It's for their supporters."