Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Six Months After The Election, Ridge Admits Terror Threat Level Raised Unnecessarily

Former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge told Washington reporters yesterday that he often argued with administration officials about the need to put the U.S. on high alert for terrorist attacks.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, was quoted by USA Today saying he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge was quoted by USA Today. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

***

Now he tells us. A lot of good it does Americans ... six months after the presidential election.

According to USA Today, Ridge said he was often over-ruled on decisions regarding the terror alert system. Given his public clashes with former Attorney General John Ashcroft, one has to assume that it was Ashcroft who over-ruled him (and subsequently took the lead role in press conferences.)

It raises a lot questions, such as: Why didn't Ridge have final say over what was, essentially, a homeland security decision?

***

So was raising the terror threat level purely political strategy -- an effort to scare the American people into re-electing President Bush? There's certainly anecdotal evidence pointing critics in that direction.

You need to check out this chart. which suggests alerts came after drops in Bush's approval ratings. The alerts become more frequent as the election grows near.

Ashcroft was, of course, king of the "well-timed" press conference. He paraded out names of terror suspects who had been in custody for months -- such as the nut who said he wanted to blow up an Ohio mall. Ashcroft also had a tendency to talk up the arrests of those with Arab or otherwise foreign-sounding names, while not publicizing other arrests, such as those involving fringe right anti-government terror threats.

Even then, critics could see that the press conferences were often based on flimsy intelligence. Last June, for example, Ashcroft claimed that “credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that Al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States” between then and the November election? The "credible intelligence," it was later learned, came from Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, who among other things, took credit for the blackout in the Northeast in 2003.

But Ridge -- the same Ridge protesting now -- was often standing by Ashcroft's side during those bogus press conferences and, if you believe Ridge, questionable announcements to raise the terror threat level.

***

Unfortunately, USA Today's short article doesn't go into much depth -- no one else is quoted, for example. The only other article I could find on the forum was an even shorter piece in the Washington Post, and that doesn't even mention Ridge's comments on disagreements in the intelligence community. (A variation of that story, in which Ridge defends the color-coded terror alert chart, appeared in other newspapers, such as Newsday.)

So much for "liberal media bias," huh?

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess this throws a wrench into your consistent meme that President Bush has just surrounded himself with people that agree with him. Is it too difficult to get your mind around the fact that there may have simply been differences of opinion drawn after looking at the same set of information?!

I have no doubt that if the threat level had not been increased, and something had happened, you would be on here giving Sec. Ridge seven kinds of hell for not doing his job.

When it comes to the left anymore, it is damned if you do, damned if you don't.

And clearly, everybody knows that raising the threat level has such an incredibly drastic effect on the voting public. I know that I get my blackout curtains out every time it is raised. Yet another trivial matter being used to try to bash the Administration.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

the above poster doesn't need the left to argue with -- he just supplies their argument for them, even if it's the wrong argumetn.

I think the most important question aksed is, why didn't ridge have final say?

It doesn't matter that Ridge had an independent voice, if he stood by Ashcroft's side and didn't say a word when it mattered.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for the liberal media ?!

I suppose their gross distortion, if not outright fabrication, of the Ken Starr quote in regards to the judicial filibusters, is just perfectly acceptable.

Oh, the hypocrisy ... !

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The terror level was raised conspicously close to the election last fall based on intelligence officials happened upon for the first time about terrorists scoping out properties in New York and New Jersey several years ago.
This charade costs local enforcement agencies several millions of dollars.
It is a known tactic of some of the world's most notorious leaders to rule with fear and intimidation. Bush has exploited the fear of 9-11 to his full advantage in getting his way in Iraq and elsewhere. These fabricated terrorist threats just another part of the scheme.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing in jabbs' post shows that the terror level was raised unnecessarily. Nothing. All it shows is that there was a debate between differing opinions.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous joe said...

Ridge said: "There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

The guy was the Homeland Security chief. If he didn't think the terror threat should have been raised, that would be enough for JABBS to draw his conclusion.

Face it -- you are one of those people who thinks Bush is always right, so by default JABBS must always be wrong.

I have to assume that such true believers think Ridge, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, etc., should be burned at the stake as traitors.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Ken Starr quote?

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does Ken Starr and filibusters have to do with Tom Ridge and the terror threat level?

I will never feel bad for Ken Starr.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found this, from the May 9th CBS Evening News. IF this is the quote our conservative friend is referring to, it's hardly a fabrication, and certainly not evidence of liberal media bias.

Starr, for what it's worth, is speaking on camera to reporter Gloria Borger.

This is a copy of the transcript:

Mr. KENNETH STARR (Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law): This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.

BORGER: Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky case against President Clinton, tells CBS News that the Republican plan to end the filibuster may be unwise.

Mr. STARR: It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.

BORGER: Still, Starr thinks all judges should be allowed a vote, even if they're Democrats.

During the Clinton years...

Mr. STARR: Exactly.

BORGER: ...lots of those nominees were blocked by Republicans in committee, you'll recall.

Mr. STARR: Exactly.

BORGER: Right.

Mr. STARR: And I don't think that's particularly admirable either.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is an excerpt from the transcript. He was speaking in regards to the unprecendented action of opposing and/or filibustering judges based on their ideology, rather than their qualificiations. He stated that the Democrats actions amount to an assault on the judiciary. The report leads the reader to believe that his comments were in regards to exercising the nuclear option, which is the exact opposite of what he was referring to. Heaven forbid they get the simple facts straight.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lest our conservative friend think I took Starr's words out of context (I didn't), here is the entire transcript, straight from Lexis-Nexis, which has Starr speaking into the camera.

(WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH RIDGE IS BEYOND ME ...)

In Washington, an epic battle that has been threatened for months now may be coming to a head: the Republican threat to try to change Senate rules and do away with filibusters to make it easier to confirm some of the president's judicial appointments. It sounds like inside baseball, but it could have a dramatic impact on everything from abortion and same-sex marriage to the death penalty. Here's Gloria Borger with our report.

Unidentified Man #1: It's an arrogance, an abuse of power.

GLORIA BORGER reporting:

As far as political fights go, this could be one for the history books.

Unidentified Man #2: They should get an up-or-down votes.

BORGER: The Senate showdown is over judges. Republicans, who want to get the president's nominees confirmed, are threatening to end the age-old filibuster, where any senator can threaten to stop any vote just by continuously talking. Right now it takes 60 votes to cut him off. The Democrats call that unconstitutional, an assault on the system of checks and balances.

But this fight goes way beyond Senate rules. This is a monumental battle about the future of the courts. Just who gets to sit on the Supreme Court? And should we appoint justices who want to rule on everything from abortion to gay marriage to civil rights?

That's why many conservatives consider the fight over judges their political Armageddon. But conservative icon and former federal Judge Ken Starr says it's gotten out of control.

Mr. KENNETH STARR (Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law): This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.

BORGER: Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky case against President Clinton, tells CBS News that the Republican plan to end the filibuster may be unwise.

Mr. STARR: It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.

BORGER: Still, Starr thinks all judges should be allowed a vote, even if they're Democrats.

During the Clinton years...

Mr. STARR: Exactly.

BORGER: ...lots of those nominees were blocked by Republicans in committee, you'll recall.

Mr. STARR: Exactly.

BORGER: Right.

Mr. STARR: And I don't think that's particularly admirable either.

BORGER: Now both sides realize they have a lot at stake here, so watch for talk of a possible compromise. They know that the polls show that partisan wrangling is not what the voters want, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well, seeing Ken Starr, of all people, coming out on what looks like the opposite side of many on the conservative--in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, tells me that both sides here may be looking for some way out of this showdown that's coming. Do you get that sense, Gloria?

BORGER: I do get that sense. The polls are showing that the voters really want this wrangling to stop. I think Ken Starr is saying that those on the far right and those on the far left have both gone overboard; that the president ought to get the right to pick his judges, and we ought to move beyond where we were when we had the Justice Bork fight in the '80s, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you very much, Gloria.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, the term "nuclear option" is not used by Starr, or by reporters Borger or Schieffer.

Given that Starr spoke on the record, what evidence do you have to support your statement:

"I suppose their gross distortion, if not outright fabrication, of the Ken Starr quote in regards to the judicial filibusters, is just perfectly acceptable."

What gross distortion? What fabrication? Starr talked on camera, on the record. The CBS reporters note that Starr, a conservative, is not aligned with the conservative leaders of the party. That's pretty obvious. Then both reporters talk about the possibility of compromise in the near future, which is probably more a Republican view than a Democratic one.

Please enlighten us, oh faithful conservative. And while you're at it, explain what this has to do with the press coverage of Tom Ridge.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this ? Is this sufficient ?

CBS employed two snippets. The 'radical departure' snippet was specifically addressed -- although this is not evidenced whatever from the clip -- to the practice of invoking judicial philosophy as a grounds for voting against a qualified nominee of integrity and experience. I said in sharp language that that practice was wrong. I contrasted the current practice . . . with what occurred during Ruth Ginsburg's nomination process, as numerous Republicans voted (rightly) to confirm a former ACLU staff lawyer. They disagreed with her positions as a lawyer, but they voted (again, rightly) to confirm her. Why? Because elections, like ideas, have consequences. . . . In the interview, I did indeed suggest, and have suggested elsewhere, that caution and prudence be exercised (Burkean that I am) in shifting/modifying rules (that's the second snippet), but I likewise made clear that the 'filibuster' represents an entirely new use (and misuse) of a venerable tradition. . . .
"[O]ur friends are way off base in assuming that the CBS snippets, as used, represent (a) my views, or (b) what I in fact said."
I sat on Saturday with Gloria Borger for 20 minutes approximately, had a wide ranging, on-camera discussion. In the piece that I have now seen, and which I gather has been lavishly quoted, CBS employed two snippets. The 'radical departure from our history' snippet was specifically addressed to the practice of invoking judicial philosophy as a grounds for voting against a qualified nominee of integrity and experience. I said in sharp language that that practice was wrong.

Are Ken Starr's words good enough for you ? Or does See B.S. just get to make shit up out of whole cloth ?

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JABBS didn't write about Ken Starr. You brought it up out of nowhere, with no context. I found the Lexis/Nexis transcript and posted it, and asked why it was that you a) brought it up and b) thought that Starr was a victim of liberal media bias.

Frankly, I still don't what this has to do with Tom Ridge. And also frankly, I'm not one to believe Ken Starr, after the witch hunt he conducted against Bill Clinton.

It wouldn't be the first time someone didn't like the way their interview was cut down by a news program. I would suggest that Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to be upset by that.

And for you to expect that the rest of us know what Ken Starr is thinking, and thus are deficient, especially during a discussion that has nothing to do with Starr, is a little silly

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To paraphrase ...

See B.S. : Question : How do you feel about Democrats using ideology as the standard by which judges should be measured?

Ken Starr : Answer : This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.

Then, when See B.S. decides to run their quote, they either intentionally or incompetently refer to Star's quote referencing the Republicans positions, which is an outright lie.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JABBS didn't write about Ken Starr. You brought up Ken Starr. JABBS wrote about Tom Ridge.

I think you're (in the voice of Lewis Black) delusional ...

2:44 PM  

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