Ridge says Bush Administration pushed to raise terror alert for re-election

A remarkable detail to be published in former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s soon-to-be-released book asserts that the Bush Administration attempted to wield the color-coded terror alert system for political gain — a charge often leveled by Democrats but not previously confirmed by a high-ranking Bush Administration official.

Ridge’s publisher is pushing details from his book in advance of its release. Notable among them:

Tom Ridge, the first head of the 9/11-inspired Department of Homeland Security, wasn’t keen on writing a tell-all. But in The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…and How We Can Be Safe Again, out September 1, Ridge says he wants to shake “public complacency” over security.

And to do that, well, he needs to tell all. Especially about the infighting he saw that frustrated his attempts to build a smooth-running department. 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.

Liberal columnist and blogger Josh Marshall noted the striking timing of Bush terror alerts in 2006.

“The 18 months prior to the 2004 presidential election witnessed a barrage of those ridiculous color-coded terror alerts, quashed-plot headlines and breathless press conferences from Administration officials,” Marshall wrote. “Warnings of terror attacks over the Christmas 2003 holidays, warnings over summer terror attacks at the 2004 political conventions, then a whole slew of warnings of terror attacks to disrupt the election itself. Even the timing of the alerts seemed to fall with odd regularity right on the heels of major political events. One of Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge’s terror warnings came two days after John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate; another came three days after the end of the Democratic convention.”

A tape released by Osama bin Laden days before the 2004 election may have been the reasoning for the intended terror alert, but none was issued after August in 2004.

Ridge has broken with the Bush Administration before. In a May interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Ridge said he could not support the former Vice President Dick Cheney’s charge that Obama had undermined US national security.

Asked if he believed the country was now less safe as a result of Obama’s policies, Ridge said: “I do not.”

The Republican said the discussion had become too politically charged with Cheney making a televised speech on Thursday immediately after an address by the sitting president.

Ridge also said he was disappointed with both Cheney and Obama, saying he regretted the bitter partisan tone about such an important issue.

“I disagree with Dick Cheney. But I also disagree with the approach both men are taking,” said Ridge, in excerpts of an interview due to be broadcast in full on Sunday. (Raw Story, 8.20.2009) -John Byrne (with AFP)

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