Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Ridge Claims That He Was Pressured to Elevate Threat Warning

Updated 7:42 p.m.
By Garance Franke-Ruta
Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, the first director of the Department of Homeland Security, says that he was pressured by other agency heads to raise the national security-threat level on the eve of the 2004 presidential election -- a move he rejected as having political undertones.

The disclosure comes in promotional materials for Ridge's new book, due out Sept. 1, in which he writes that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft tried to pressure him to raise the threat level.

"After that episode, I knew I had to follow through with my plans to leave the federal government for the private sector," Ridge writes in the book, "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege ... and How We Can Be Safe Again," according to publishers Thomas Dunne Books.

He submitted his resignation within the month.

Another official in George W. Bush's administration, White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, told the Associated Press on Thursday that Ridge "was certainly not pressured," while a spokesman for Rumsfeld rejected Ridge's assertion.

"The story line advanced by his publisher seemingly to sell copies of the book is nonsense," Keith Urbahn said in a statement. "During the fall of 2004, Osama bin Laden and an American member of al-Qaeda released videotapes that said in no uncertain terms that al-Qaeda intended to launch more attacks against Americans. ... Given those facts, it would seem reasonable for senior administration officials to discuss the threat level."

Ridge's publicist, Joe Rinaldi, said Thursday that the former secretary was not doing interviews.

Ridge will also say in the book that his relationship with Rumsfeld had been distant, with the Pentagon chief rarely making himself available for meetings with his domestic security counterpart.

And Ridge will also reveal that he was never invited to a White House National Security Council meeting -- Condoleezza Rice was NSC director during President George W. Bush's first term -- that he was routinely "blindsided" by an information-withholding Federal Bureau of Investigation during Oval Office briefings, and that his efforts to establish regional Homeland Security offices in New Orleans and six other major cities in the years before Hurricane Katrina were thwarted by bureaucracy.

The man who oversaw America's airport screening was himself singled out for screening more than two dozen times, he will say.

Threat-level warnings became a subject of controversy in 2004 after one rise was declared just days after the Democratic National Convention that summer. The move was seen by some at the time as redirecting public attention toward an issue where Bush was stronger (terrorism) and away from questions about the war in Iraq being raised by challenger Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

Some of the intelligence behind the alert was ultimately revealed to be three to four years old, though newly obtained.

"We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland of Security," Ridge said at the time.

By Garance Franke-Ruta  |  August 20, 2009; 6:18 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: DNC Outraises RNC in July, but Republicans Retain Cash Edge
Next: POTUS Events: Obama Meets with Daschle


Fitting that this article appears under the category, "The Obama Presidency." WPost mantra: when our guy's being shown to be the incompetent, not-ready-for-Prime-Time liar that he is, let's remind everyone that, at least, he's not Bush. Get over it, people, your guy's in - enjoy the disappointing ride.

Posted by: bilcas33 | August 24, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

scrapple posted: "Perhaps the lack of intelligence extends to you also, kimkimminni1"

Another measure of intelligence is reading through mistakes without pointing them out. Perhaps the lack of intelligence extends to you also,scrapple?

Posted by: JohnDebba | August 22, 2009 12:47 AM | Report abuse

kimkimminni1 writes:
"It was also not to intelligent of him to leave his elected position of Governor of Pa to except the position, and not to smart of Bush to ask him too."

Perhaps the lack of intelligence extends to you also, kimkimminni1.

Instead of "to intelligent" use "too intelligent". Instead of "to except" use "to accept". Instead of "to smart" use "too smart". Instead of "to ask him too" use "to ask him to".

Posted by: scrapple | August 21, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Ridge would say anything to cover the mess he made out of homeland security, billions of dollars unaccounted for and total waste from no organized plan of process. He wasn't qualified to do the job. It was also not to intelligent of him to leave his elected position of Governor of Pa to except the position, and not to smart of Bush to ask him too. Gore would of been a far better choice or even Colin Powell. The last thing we need is a cock eyed republican running for president, so lets just end this republican election campaign before it even starts.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | August 21, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Many Americans are such suckers that they believe all the fear mongering that comes out of the GOP. We see it again with health care reform and the same suckers are buying it again. It is a miracle that this nation has survived as long as it has.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | August 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Yes--they knew and we knew. But as it happens, two of my colleagues and I analyzed the Bush administration's terrorism threat messages, especially increased raised terror alerts and how the media reported them; we found that the result were measurable increases in Bush's public approval.
In other words, selling fear worked very well, indeed.
For more on this, see:

Posted by: bn1123 | August 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Those of us who realized that Emporer Bush was naked are not surprised to learn about the pressure put on Sec. Ridge, a man of high integrity. If a Democratic president had done this, Limbaugh, Hannity and the other right-wingnuts would have been screaming bloody murder.
It's too late to impeach Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz et al, but not too late for an independent prosecutor to indict and convict for abuse of power and disclosing the name of a covert CIA operative for political purposes.

Posted by: curtnevan | August 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

O.M.G. scrivener50 must watch to much Faux News. Never misses Drugball either.

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | August 21, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

SHOCK! SHOCK!, Just more evidence of the corruption of the Bush Adm. Do you also remember every time Bush was in trouble we got a new letter from Bin Lodin SHOCK! SHOCK! Birds of a feather hang together.

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | August 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

It's details like this that provide invaluable testimony on which the verdict of History is based.

No, I won't buy the book - I'm too cheap (Today's Version).

No, He didn't buy the book - layer upon layer of deception was routinely employed to keep America in fear. (Historical Version).

We should have seen Cheney coming with Watergate. I wish History would forgive us for that one, but it won't.

Posted by: gannon_dick | August 21, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

The fact that bin Laden released a threatening videotape just four days before the election would have overshadowed any change in the threat level, which was already treated as a joke by the news media and much of the public.

Posted by: WylieD | August 21, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"Can we go back to yellow now? I'd like to bring some water with me next time I travel."

At yellow, DHS offers these Recommended Activities:

* Everyone should establish an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan for themselves and their family, and stay informed about what to do during an emergency.
* All Americans should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicious items or activities to local authorities immediately.

I suspect you will never be able to fly with large bottles of whatever, ever again.

Besides, all that stuff makes the luggage heavy. I have notice an increase of carry-on bags that exceed the allowed limits. Trying to save that dollar, I guess. To me it looks like a pain in the neck - No Thanks.

Posted by: thomp | August 21, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Let’s not forget, that former president George W. Bush and his crew, for whatever reason, failed at this test.

People were right back then and are being proven correct as time passes. But the test was not a complete loss if you count the money made by his crew after failing the test. You’re welcome Tom, let’s hope we can thank you too.

Posted by: thomp | August 21, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Just read my own post; not good!

Soooooo which do we believe; The money seeking capitalist who use to be a politician or the former presidents representatives????

The choices are mind boggling!

More better!

Posted by: kenschnauzer | August 21, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Soooooo which do we believe; The money seeking capitalist who use to be a politician or the former politician's representatives????

The choices are mind boggling!

Posted by: kenschnauzer | August 21, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"Just wonder what the media was doing at this time 5 years ago."

Running the unsubstantiated Swift Boat charges, that were spread by Republicans, 24/7. After all, they must never question any motivation of the commander in chief's actions in a time of "war on terror."

Posted by: mkarns | August 21, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

terrorists use terror to control politics--

exactly what Brsh, Cheney, Rove, Ridge did

Posted by: lichtme | August 21, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Ridge has confirmed what we already knew. Playing politics with terror alerts is despicable. The GOP motto is,"win at all costs, who cares about the American people." The GOP has no problem blatantly lying to the American people. That is what they are best at.

Posted by: edanddot | August 21, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Why are these things always swept under the carpet for 5 years? Why aren't they brought to light as they happen? Personally, I believe Tom Ridge. I know what a corrupt, dirty bunch was in power and 70% of Americans also know. Just wonder what the media was doing at this time 5 years ago. Probably being good little boys and girls and taking a time out and turning their pointed heads.

Posted by: racam | August 21, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Ridge and Colin Powell remind me of Prussian generals who opposed Hitler in their hearts but did not resign or do anything to stop him. They cannot get away with it, nor can Ridge and Powell. Shame is what they deserve.

Posted by: ravitchn | August 21, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Ridge could have displayed integrity and quit.

Posted by: whocares666 | August 21, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

This is the type of government you get
when you elect people to government
who do not believe in government.

If governance is not their concern just what do you expect these synchophants to do when they have a meeting and their jobs are on the line with the next election? Be good and protect the nation? Oh wait, that's government doing something so it must be bad. If only they cared about America, even a little. Therse guys were the equivalent of Keystone Cops who do not believe in law enforcement.

Posted by: Fate1 | August 21, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Oh c'mon already. All the evil things so many here are so ready to blame on bush .... like this naughty little boy had the brains to think up any of that stuff.

He still thinks he did a good job! He's not just saying that, mouth full of sht like the normal republicans ... he actually believes it.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft - remember Ashcroft, the guy who draped blankets over the statues in the justice department because he was afraid he'd get turned on by marble tits?

Evil, Evil-er, and sick.

Posted by: khote14 | August 21, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Can we go back to yellow now? I'd like to bring some water with me next time I travel.

Posted by: ideallydc | August 21, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Can we go back to yellow now? I'd like to bring some water & shampoo with me next time I travel.

Posted by: ideallydc | August 21, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Ridge's Account Fits Squarely Into This Frightening Reality:



President Obama has been co-opted into becoming an enabler of a secretive, federally overseen "multi-agency coordinated action" program of extrajudicial targeting and inhumane high-tech punishment...

...misusing federally-funded volunteer organizations and secret weapons programs to subvert the rule of law.

This nationwide, federal-local apparatus has deployed a civilian vigilante army that covertly places GPS tracking devices to stalk, persecute, vandalize and harass many thousands of unjustly targeted citizens and their families...

...reportedly, even when they seek medical treatment at health care facilities.

"The program" also misuses government surveillance operations to censor, and maliciously tamper with, the telecommunications of many thousands of the unjustly targeted -- and, victims maintain, funnels surveillance data to citizen "community stalker" harassers.

An array of "programs of personal financial destruction" decimates the finances of "target" families.

And microwave / laser "directed energy weapons" are deployed to degrade their health, inducing illness, even "slow-kill" death -- a gross violation of human rights, government-enabled crimes against humanity.

And no authorities will investigate -- invoking the "Gulag" tactic of dismissing those who seek justice as "delusional."

Team Obama: Wake up and smell the police state that is co-opting your administration and destroying democracy and the rule of law at the grassroots.

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | August 21, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

As one who was afraid to use my precious and limited health care coverage on hypertension from paying attention to Cheney's reign of terror and fear, the terrorists warnings were, to me, a complete propaganda joke right out of Orwell. What a waste of money to scare and anger granny glued to Fox News.

Posted by: coloradodog | August 21, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

If you want to read other news today that corporate media may figure out some distant day in the future, check out

Posted by: rooster54 | August 21, 2009 6:05 AM | Report abuse

This was SO obvious during the campaign. It happened on six occasions. The first was three days after the Democratic convention. The news cycle was strongly trending positive for Kerry so the WH upped the threat level and announced some bogus alleged schemes. It happened every time during the campaign when the news cycles and polls trended for Kerry. It was anecdotal until now. Add this to the docket. Manipulating national security to cheat in an election has got to be criminal under some statute. When is Holder going to get serious about going after this den of criminal thugs? It seems the handful with human souls are starting to feel the pangs of guilt that are inevitable when one participates in something so dispicable as the bush administration's crimes against the united States, our citizens, and humanity.

Posted by: John1263 | August 21, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

The Bush Presidential Library will sure have a big list
of banned books that it won't allow on it's shelves.

Posted by: blakesouthwood | August 20, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

The "reality based" voters already knew or strongly suspected this, but it was incumbent upon Tom Ridge to confirm it BEFORE George Bush was re-elected. I still cannot believe that Bush - the man who invaded the wrong country after 9-11 and started an illicit war - was re-elected because he was "the war president".

Posted by: gsross | August 20, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

1 in 9 people are homeless or jobelss or about now????

Posted by: dottydo | August 20, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Had that figured out a long time ago.

Posted by: MNUSA | August 20, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

And this is surprising because ...? (Though while I would have expected this sliminess from Rumsfeld I though Ashcroft was a little better than that.)

In point of fairness, though: Ridge is the idiot who came up with the whole color-based alert system in the first place. So we need to take what he says with a grain of salt. Thankfully DHS has mostly dropped that system. I go from blue to orange just thinking about it.

Posted by: marclips | August 20, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

About time this hit the front page. Oh, wait...

Posted by: branfo4 | August 20, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Bush, Rumsfeld,Cheney, and their aids are War Criminals who should be turned over to the World Court and tried. If convicted, they should be tied to posts and publically shot! This will deter their type of behavior in the future.

Posted by: w2rgp | August 20, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Will the defendant please rise.

Posted by: whocares666 | August 20, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Tom Ridge for another reminder as to why it is taking more than six months to clean up the corrupt mess left after 8 years of Cheney and his puppet,

Posted by: rkerg | August 20, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

The criminal Bush regime needs to be prosecuted for this. It was obvious to many that it was another fake alert, but Ridge's report confirms it. Where are the special prosecutors?

Posted by: revbookburn |


I believe in accountability, I really do. But what law do you think this broke?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | August 20, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The criminal Bush regime needs to be prosecuted for this. It was obvious to many that it was another fake alert, but Ridge's report confirms it. Where are the special prosecutors?

Posted by: revbookburn | August 20, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Wait, the Australian country music star that is married to Nicole Kidman is now Rumsfeld's spokesperson?!?!?

Oh, wait. Keith Urbahn. With an H.

Rosanne Rosannadanna: "Nevermind."

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | August 20, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

"We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland of Security," Ridge said at the time. [see the article for context]

Yeah, right. Politicizing nearly everything, from homeland security and the Department of Justice to scientific policy debate to . . . . par for the course for the Dubya gang.

Don't trust government to those who wish to destroy it. Don't trust government to those who wish to subsume everything within it. Trust government to those who know that it must be used sparingly, but when used, used effectively.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | August 20, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I never dreamed that Americans would torture prisoners but there you go, how wrong could I be. After that I can't get too excited about official fear mongering for political gain. That now seems absolutely normal.

Posted by: markswisshelm | August 20, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Who'd thunk it, a US President owes his reelection to bin Landen?

Depending how you look at it, Keith Urbahn's rebuttal is funny or scary as they come. All Usama bin Laden has to do is speak, then mighty America is easily frightened.

Posted by: JohnDebba | August 20, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

"We have nothing to sell but fear itself."
George W. Bush

Posted by: dfc102 | August 20, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

When was the last time there was any real proof of life for Osama Bin Laden anyway?

I think he's probably dead.

Posted by: timscanlon | August 20, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

"History will judge me" Dubya will probably not get a kick out of how ironic his insistence that history be his judge will turn out to be when history judges him one of the worst presidents of all time.

Posted by: TechieGuy | August 20, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Another disgraceful, 100 percent-guaranteed fact about Bush is revealed. But we are not surprised. He is the worst president we have ever had. A liar, emotionally twisted, ready to play with our national security for his political gain. A real standup guy, like the Republican challenger who thought Palin was a good understudy to be president. Country first, yeah. Not from Bush or McCain.

Posted by: axolotl | August 20, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Why should anything surprise us about the Bush Cartel? This revelation only smacks more from Karl Rove's playbook. Exposing this only cements more the reasons for the GOP being where they are. Credibility, since the "Gingrich and Delay Revolution", has not been their strength.

Posted by: sd-mouth | August 20, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Tell us something we don't already know!

Posted by: LKM2 | August 20, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

We all knew that high alerts were used to scare Americans into submission and reelecting Dubya.

Tom Ridge doesn't need to write a book and make money to tell us what we already know.

Posted by: Single_Payer | August 20, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company