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Aug 21st, 2009


Ridge Says He Was Pressured to Raise Terror Alert

In book, ex-Homeland Security chief hints Bush aides wanted to sway vote

Tom Ridge, former  Homeland Security secretary, faced criticism in 2004 from Democrats who alleged that raising the alert level was designed to boost support for the Bush administration in an election year. (Photo credit: Ron Edmonds / AP)

Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security secretary, faced criticism in 2004 from Democrats who alleged that raising the alert level was designed to boost support for the Bush administration in an election year. (Photo credit: Ron Edmonds / AP)


Aug. 20, 2009

Excerpts

WASHINGTON – Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge claims in a new book that he was pressured by other members of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet to raise the nation’s terror alert level just before the 2004 presidential election.

Ridge says he objected to raising the security level despite the urgings of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to a publicity release from Ridge’s publisher. He said the episode convinced him to follow through with his plans to leave the administration; he resigned on Nov. 30, 2004. …

Two tapes were released by al-Qaida in the weeks leading up to the election – one by terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and the other by a man calling himself “Azzam the American.” Terrorism experts suspected that “Azzam the American” was Adam Gadahn, a 26-year-old Californian whom the FBI had been urgently seeking.

‘Security or politics’?

Ridge’s publicist, Joe Rinaldi, said Ridge was out of town and was not doing interviews until his book, “The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege … and How We Can Be Safe Again,” is released on Sept. 1 [2009]. Ridge writes in the book that the bin Laden tape alone did not justify a change in the nation’s security threat level but describes “a vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion” on Oct. 30 to do so.

Video
Threat alert manipulated? (MSNBC, Aug. 20, 2009) – Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff discuss former Bush Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge’s new book on Hardball. (11:51)

“There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None,” he writes. “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.” …

In 2004, Ridge explained why he didn’t feel the terror alert should be raised. “We don’t have to go to (code level) orange to take action in response either to these tapes or just general action to improve security around the country,” he said then.

In 2005, months after he resigned, Ridge said his agency has been the most reluctant to raise the alert level. “There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, ‘For that?’” he said during a panel discussion in May 2005. But his book appears to be the first time he publicly attributes some of the pressure to politics. …

Ridge, a former Republican congressman and governor of Pennsylvania, was widely named as a potential running mate to John McCain in 2008 before the GOP candidate chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

———

Related commentaries

Ridge’s telling tale, or just another tell-all?
(Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, Aug. 22, 2009)

Video

The Nexus of Politics and Terror (MSNBC “Countdown,” Aug. 21, 2009) – Countdown tracks the questionable stories the Bush administration fabricated as an opportunity to raise terror alerts for their own political gain starting in May 2002. (16:36)

———

FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago Today — August 21, 2008

On the Campaign Trail: Day 38

One year ago today, on the 38th day of my campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann for the Republican nomination as House of Representatives candidate in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I announced the August 22 kick-off of a second walking tour, this time a 50-mile campaign swing from Foley in the east to Paynesville on the western boundary of the Sixth Congressional District.

In line with my campaign focus on national security, I also drew attention to a Newsweek interview with Gen. David Petraeus, in which the former U.S. commander in Iraq explained why vigilance was still needed in Iraq and why Afghanistan in some ways poses an even greater security dilemma for the United States.

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4 Responses to “Tom Ridge Terror Threat Claim”
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