WASHINGTON — Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday people "are hyperventilating" about his assertion that politics played a role in talk of raising the terror alert before the 2004 elections.
"A consensus was reached. We didn't go up. The process worked," Ridge said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
The former Pennsylvania governor, however, did not take back the statement in his new book, "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege," that he worried at the time that politics was a consideration in discussions among high-level officials about whether to raise the color-coded terror alert to a higher level. He acknowledged there was a lively debate about it, but repeated that it was not done, and thus not an issue.
In an interview with USA Today, Ridge backpedaled on his initial assertion. "I was never pressured," he said. "I'm not second-guessing my colleagues," he also told the paper.
Ridge said his concern at the time of the internal Bush administration discussions was to be "absolutely certain" that divergent points of view were heard and that people had their say.
On another matter, he said he agreed with former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's decision to conduct a review of terrorism-era detainee interrogation practices during the Bush years.
Ridge said he thought it "would be criminal" for the new administration to seek to prosecute people who likely believed they were acting within the law and with proper authority at the time the interrogations were carried out.