LAS VEGAS - Specific intelligence indicates that al-Qaida terror operatives intend to try to disrupt U.S. elections this fall, Rep. Jim Gibbons told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The Nevada Republican who chairs a house subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism, made his comments before a speech at the 26th annual Financial Executives Gaming Forum at the MGM Grand hotel-casino.
"We know that the terrorists ... are attempting to influence the elections in November," Gibbons told The Associated Press. "Our sources and information tell us that the al-Qaida network is trying desperately."
Intelligence has indicated terrorists are eyeing a four-month period preceding the Nov. 2 election, a time that would include the Republican and Democratic national conventions, Gibbons said.
Democrats will gather the last week in July in Boston, and Republicans are scheduled to meet in New York at the end of August.
"We're very concerned about those locations that will be a gathering of the political leaders of both sides of the aisle," Gibbons said.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller held a news conference Wednesday to announce intensified counterterrorism measures for the summer and to provide the names and photographs of seven suspected al-Qaida operatives. Each of the suspects, Ashcroft said, presents "a clear and present danger" to the United States.
Ashcroft said political repercussions from the March 11 train bombings in Spain, which helped defeat the ruling party in later elections, could embolden al-Qaida to try to influence U.S. elections through attacks here.
A day later, Gibbons was more direct about al-Qaida's motivation. The individuals wanted by the U.S. government are suspected of developing a plan to "disrupt or change" the upcoming national election, he said.
"They are sadly mistaken about the will of the American people," Gibbons said. "They have made the biggest mistake of their lives."