On CNN's Newsroom Thursday, reporter Rick Sanchez talked with Mike Brooks, Kelli Arena and Richard Clarke about a potential "October surprise" by al-Qaeda.
Clarke, who served as a counter-terrorism czar under multiple presidents, including George W. Bush, said Osama bin Laden's taped message just before the 2004 election was intended to help the Republican incumbent win.
As the host and guests speculated on what targets would be the most vulnerable to a terrorist assault, Clarke leveled his argument.
"The fundamental issue isn't throwing up guards everywhere," he said. "The fundamental issue is getting into these terrorist organizations... So far, the FBI has penetrated a lot of organizations that turned out really not to be terrorist organizations... These were wanna-be's, and not serious terrorist organizations.
"And that leaves us with two options: Either the FBI can't find the real ones, or there are not real ones within the United States. And that later case may be true, because after all, the team that came in to do 9/11 was brought in from outside...
"At the moment, as far as I can tell, the FBI, other intelligence agencies, do not have any credible information that would lead them to believe an attack might take place. Why are we asking this, though?
"Because in 2004, bin Laden did try to influence the US election. Whether or not he succeeded, who knows? But he issued a video tape on Halloween, a few days before the election, that implied that he supported Senator Kerry.
"He knew, that if he seemed to be supporting Senator Kerry, that would help President Bush. And it did."
"Hm," replied Sanchez.
"So, we know he likes to try to influence elections," said Clarke. "So, we can look forward to perhaps another video tape like that, or an attack. But an attack is a heck of a lot harder for them to stage than the easy job of putting out a video tape."
This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast October 23, 2008.