Ridge: Rumsfeld and Ashcroft wanted to raise terror threat level because it helped Bush’s approval rating.

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"Ridge: Rumsfeld and Ashcroft wanted to raise terror threat level because it helped Bush’s approval rating."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pours through Tom Ridge’s new book and offers the relevant passages where the former Homeland Security chief discusses the Bush administration’s desire to increase the terror threat level for political reasons. Ridge reveals that Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued in favor of raising the threat level by noting the correlation it had with Bush’s approval rating:

ridgerummyOsama bin Laden had released a videotape with one more ominous sounding but unspecific threat against the United States. Neither Mr. Ridge nor any of the department’s security experts thought the message warranted any change in the nation’s alert status.

“…at this point there was nothing to indicate a specific threat and no reason to cause undue public alarm,” he writes.

But that view met resistance in a tense conference call with members of the intelligence community and several other Cabinet officers including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensured. Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by Rumsfeld.”

Noting the correlation found between increases in the threat level and the president’s approval rating, Mr. Ridge writes, “I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’”

(HT: Marc Ambinder)

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