Tom Ridge: I Was Pressured To Raise Terror Alert To Help Bush Win
UPDATE: Former Bush administration officials are vehemently denying Ridge's statements.
"We went over backwards repeatedly and with great discipline to make sure politics did not influence any national security and homeland security decisions," former White House chief of staff Andy Card told Politico. "The clear instructions were to make sure politics never influenced anything."
"Under no circumstance was Tom Ridge or anyone else directed to change the threat level," former homeland security adviser Frances Townsend said. "It didn't work that way, and it certainly didn't work that way in 2004. It was always an apolitical process."
It seems that no other former top Bush political and national security officials were willing to respond.
In a new book, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge reveals new details on politicization under President Bush, reports US News & World Report's Paul Bedard. Among other things, Ridge admits that he was pressured to raise the terror alert to help Bush win re-election in 2004.
Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was "blindsided" by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.
Dave Weigel, writing for the Washington Independent, notes that in the past, Ridge has denied manipulating security information for political reasons. In 2004, for example, he said, "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."
"What Tom Ridge disclosed confirms our worst suspicions," said Sen. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who criticized the color-coded system back in 2003. "Just like they did in Iraq, the Bush Administration manipulated intelligence to cause fear in the public to further its political goals."
The Bush administration was forced to admit in the days after the 2004 alert that it was based on intelligence three or four years old. Officials then claimed there was a previously unmentioned "separate stream of intelligence" that justified the warning -- but offered little tangible information to support their new story..
Ridge's book, "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...and How We Can Be Safe Again," comes out September 1.