Ridge accused of trying to profit from terror alert accusations

Frances Townsend served as a Homeland Security advisor to former President George W. Bush.
A former Bush administration official said she thinks former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s recent charges that politics were behind raising the terror level in 2004 were "personally motivated."

In a new book, Ridge says top Bush administration officials may have tried to raise the nation’s terror alert for political reasons in the days before the 2004 presidential vote. In response, Frances Townsend, a former Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush and now a CNN contributor, told CNN’s “American Morning” that she believes Ridge is trying to profit by separating himself politically from Bush’s record. “You have to wonder if this is not just publicity meant to sell more books,” Townsend said. Townsend vociferously denied politics played any role in a request from Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to raise the security threat level to “orange” in the final days before the 2004 election. In his book “The Test of Our Times,” Ridge writes that he saw no reason for the move, which was advocated after a threatening message was released, because additional security precautions had already been taken in advance of the election. Watch more on Ridge’s claims » A threatening message, Ridge argues, “should not be the sole reason to elevate the threat level.” “We certainly didn’t believe the tape alone warranted action, and we weren’t seeing any additional intelligence that justified it. In fact, we were incredulous,” he said. “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics'”

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Ridge: Bush officials sought to raise terror alert in 2004

The idea that an attack might take place had been discussed, he says. “But at this point there was nothing to indicate a specific threat and no reason to cause undue public alarm. It also seemed possible to me and to others around the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country’s safety.” In the end, the threat level was not raised. Townsend said Friday that “the discussion revolved around what the intelligence was. There was no discussion of politics whatsoever. Watch more of Townsend’s criticism »

“The only discussion I (recall) was on the margins of that, there was concern if the Republicans supported raising the threat level it might be … to the detriment of President Bush because people might see it as being political.” According to 2004 exit polls, one in five voters said terrorism was the most important issue to them. Of those, 86 percent voted for Bush, 14 percent for Democratic candidate John Kerry.