Ridge walks back terror alert politicization claim

The former Homeland Security chief now says he wasn't pressured to raise the alert level for political reasons

Published August 31, 2009 2:35PM (EDT)

In his new book, former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge seemed to indicate that he felt others in the Bush administration wanted him to raise the terror alert level to help President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. Since that news confirmed many critics' suspicions, the revelation -- even late as it was -- was big news. But now Ridge is disavowing it, at least to a point.

"I was never pressured," Ridge said in an interview with USA Today. And in an appearance on "Good Morning America," the former Pennsylvania governor says people "are hyperventilating" about the assertion in his book, saying, "A consensus was reached. We didn't go up. The process worked."

As the Associated Press notes, though, Ridge "did not take back the statement in his new book ... that he wrorried at the time that politics was a consideration in discussions among high-level officials about whether to raise the color-coded terror alert."

Update: At Time's Swampland blog, my former colleague Michael Scherer has a smart take on all of this; he writes that Ridge didn't truly say what the media says he did, and so he's not really backpedaling.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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