RICHMOND, Va. – State and federal officials have emphasized the safety of Commonwealth residents amid U.S. intelligence alerts that al Qaeda could be planning attacks on Monday in Virginia, New York and Texas.
"Our proximity to Washington D.C. always entails some extra precautions, because obviously Virginia was attacked on 9/11,” said Virginia Secretary of Homeland Security Brian Moran. “But because of that we have taken any number of measures with the Virginia State Police, developing that relationship with federal partners so that critical information is shared.”
Joint terrorism task forces across the country were alerted to the threat out of an abundance of caution. Officials said there had been “low-level international chatter” about possibly disrupting the U.S. election Monday or Tuesday, but no specific threats had been made.
William Pelfrey Jr., who teaches Homeland Security classes at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that al Qaeda has become much smaller than they previously were, and called the organization irrelevant and weak.
Regardless, Moran said agencies are tracking down information shared with them and making sure nothing is overlooked.
“Importantly, we are very confident that we will have an election day that is safe and free from any disruptions,” Moran said. “We are taking all necessary precautions and actions to ensure that and we have a great degree of confidence that will occur and so we are encouraging everyone to get out and vote.”
Election officials chimed in as well, to reiterate that voters should be confident “they will be able to safely cast a ballot on Tuesday and that their votes will be accurately counted.”
“Our law enforcement partners report there are no known threats to Election Day in Virginia by foreign terror organizations,” said Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés. “However, we remain extremely vigilant for any potential threats to the upcoming election and are working with our law enforcement partners to ensure an appropriate response.”
“As a matter of protocol, we have been in touch with law enforcement," said Dominion Virginia Power officials. "There is no credible threat to Dominion Virginia Power or our facilities."
Officers said they will be out in force on Election Day, however, they will not be inside polling places because they want to avoid the perception of intimidation.
Local police said they can't stress enough the importance of “if you see something, say something.”
“You know things like construction, sewer work, electrical work, all of this goes on on a daily basis in this country, but if you see it happening near schools or polling places, it may be nothing, but call us so we can ride out and make sure,” said Lt. Richard Brown with the Henrico Police Department.
Moran said Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Sen. Tim Kaine's event to Richmond on Monday has not been impacted.
"We are excited that Senator Kaine will be in Richmond on Monday," said Moran. "We have no reason to change those plans."
The exact time and location of Kaine's visit have not yet been announced.