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In New Book, Tom Ridge Decries Politicized Bush Terror Alerts

August 20, 2009

"In his new book, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge confirms what most long suspected: the Bush administration manipulated the terror threat level for the President's political advantage. But while his long overdue admission is welcome, his suggestion that he resigned over the matter is laughable.
As ThinkProgress and others have passed along, US News reported that:

Among the headlines promoted by publisher Thomas Dunne Books: 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.

Just days before the 2004 election, Ridge claimed to wonder "Is this about security or politics?" when Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft wanted to raise the threat level in response to the newly released Osama Bin laden videotape. But Ridge's own statements that summer hurt his portrayal of himself as an innocent bystander steamrolled by the Bush propaganda machine.
When the New York Times called into question the dated and dubious intelligence behind a new terror warning on August 3, 2004, Secretary Ridge famously responded:

"We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."

Sadly for Ridge, that pathetic defense followed his cheerleading for President Bush just two days earlier:

"We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror."

Ridge's resignation was announced on November 30, 2004, only after George W. Bush had been safely reelected. Upon leaving, Ridge announced, "The president has given me an extraordinary opportunity to serve my country in this incredible period since September 11th, 2001." And as the New York Times Eric Lichtblau later wrote in his book Bush's Law, Tom Ridge offered to take a lie detector test to prove no manipulation of terror alters had occurred on his watch:

"Wire me up. Not a chance. Politics played no part."

And so it goes. On September 1st, you can read Tom Ridge's apparent revisionist history for yourself. In the meantime, here's a look back at the Conservative Threat Level.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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