Friday, August 21, 2009

Tom Ridge says he was pushed to raise terror alert level.

It's one thing to hear people piece together the ways in which the Bush administration used fear to get what they want; it's quite another to have a member of that administration go on record and insist that this is what they attempted to do.

And yet, astonishingly, that is the very charge which Tom Ridge is making.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says in a new book that he was pressured by other members of President George W. Bush's Cabinet to raise the nation's terrorism alert level just before the 2004 election.

Ridge says he objected to raising the security level despite the urgings of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, according to a publicity release from Ridge's publisher.

In the end, the alert level was not changed.
But Ridge said the encounter persuaded him to follow through with his plans to leave the administration; he resigned on Nov. 30, 2004.
I don't think many people will be terribly surprised to hear that the Bush regime tried to engage in this kind of shenanigans, but it is interesting to have this kind of behaviour confirmed by someone who was in the inner circle.

And he says that he was asked to portray the war in Iraq as somehow keeping Americans safer.

He also says that Bush's homeland security adviser at the White House, Fran Townsend, called his department ahead of an August 1, 2004 speech to ask Ridge to include a reference to "defensive measures ... away from home" -- language that he read as being a reference to the Iraq war.

In those remarks, Ridge said he was raising the threat alert level for the financial services sector in New York City, northern New Jersey, and Washington DC, and went on to praise Bush's leadership against extremism.

"The reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan," said Ridge.

"Such operations and partnerships give us insight into the enemy so we can better target our defensive measures here and away from home," he said at the time.

He later publicly acknowledged that much of the information underpinning the new alert was three years old, stoking Bush critics' charges of political manipulation.

As I say, none of this is remotely surprising, but the fact that it comes from a member of the Bush administration does give it special significance. There are some on the right who say that, "Bush kept America safe". It would appear that Bush was much more interested in keeping America panicked, and that he did so for political gain.

When one remembers just how tight the 2004 election was, one really has to wonder whether or not Bush would have won at all had he not resorted to these disgraceful tactics. Mired in an ever more unpopular war, he portrayed that war as one which kept Americans safer at home. And he did so purely for political gain. I feel I should be outraged, but I'm actually not in the least bit surprised. Tom Ridge is only confirming things which we have always suspected.


Young Turks look at Marc Ambinder's reaction to this news. Ambinder always claimed that our belief that the Bush administration were using fear to manipulate the public was Liberal "gut hatred".
I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at.
Get it? Even though we were right and they were wrong, they were still justified in disbelieving us, because - as they continually reminded us - we all suffered from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Which meant that anything which we ever said could be instantly discounted.


Glenn Greenwald:
Just as is still commonly said about opponents of the Iraq War (even though they were right, they were still wrong and unSerious because their motives were bad), Ambinder acknowledges that Bush critics were right that the terror alerts were being manipulated for political ends (he has no choice but to acknowledge that now that Ridge admits it), but still says journalists like himself were right to scorn such critics "because these folks based their assumption on gut hatred for President Bush, and not on any evaluation of the raw intelligence." As always: even when the dirty leftist hippies are proven right, they're still Shrill, unSerious Losers who every decent person and "journalist" scorns.


And just so it's clear: using the threat of terrorism to try to achieve political goals is, you know, what terrorists do.


Rachel Maddow's take on this.

Click title for full article.


Chris said...

It is upsetting because terror alerts scare the public. This should have never been used to promote a political agenda.

Kel said...

Exactly. As Atrios noted: "And just so it's clear: using the threat of terrorism to try to achieve political goals is, you know, what terrorists do."