WASHINGTON — Al-Qaida terrorists may be plotting more urgently to attack the United States to maintain their credibility and ability to recruit followers, the U.S. military commander in charge of domestic defense said Thursday.
Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, chief of the U.S. Northern Command, also said he has not seen any direct threats tied to the U.S. presidential elections. But he said it would be rash to think that such threats are not there.
"We need only to look at Spain and see that they're certainly willing to try to do something that is significant that could affect an election process," Renuart said. "I think it would be imprudent of us to let down our guard."
While he said U.S. authorities have thwarted attacks on a number of occasions, he said terrorist cells may be working harder than ever to plot high-impact events. He did not point to any specific intelligence that authorities have received but said the "chatter" they are hearing "gives me no reason to believe they're going to slow down" their efforts to target the United States.
"If an organization like that is to maintain credibility and continue to grow more of its extremists, it has to show tangible results," Renuart said. "So I think there may be a certain sense of urgency among that organization to have an effect. So it would tell me that they're trying harder."
President Bush, in a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Homeland Security Department, also said the United States remained under threat from terrorists.