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August 21st, 2009
10:01 AM ET

Frances Townsend: Tom Ridge has it wrong

Frances Townsend, CNN contributor and former homeland security adviser, disputes the allegation politics were involved in the terror alert level.

Frances Townsend, CNN contributor and former homeland security adviser, disputes the allegation politics were involved in the terror alert level.

During the 2004 presidential race, many on the left accused the Bush White House of trying to use the politics of fear to get re-elected. That same claim is now coming from a former Bush insider.

America's first secretary of homeland security, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, says in his new book that he was pressured to raise the nation’s terror alert level ahead of the election.

Frances Townsend, former homeland security adviser for the Bush administration, says that's not what happened. Townsend is now a CNN national security contributor and she spoke with Kiran Chetry and John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.

Kiran Chetry: In his book Ridge says, “Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’” Fran, you were in the meetings. What is your recollection of how that whole conversation went down?

Frances Townsend: Kiran, I actually chaired the meeting and called it. Tom Ridge knew very well that I agreed with him that I didn't believe there was a basis to raise the threat level, but I knew there were others in the Homeland Security Council that did believe that and we agreed we'd have the conversation. By the way, what Tom Ridge's book doesn't say is the most eloquent case for not raising the threat level was not made by Tom in fact, it was made by Secretary of State at the time, Colin Powell. And Bob Mueller, at great personal risk – remember his boss John Ashcroft was advocating to raise it – based on the facts of the intelligence, Bob Mueller himself made an eloquent case not to raise it.

Chetry: He's saying he felt politics played in to those decisions and it was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of him deciding to get out of federal government. Do you think politics came in to the equation at all during the time when it came to deciding whether or not to raise the threat level?

Townsend: Not only do I not think that it – that politics played any part in it at all – it was never discussed. In fact, the only thing that was discussed was – earlier that summer there had been a threat against the financial district, there was the Bin Laden tape, and then there was another tape, Kiran, by Adam Gadahn a U.S. citizen who was a member of al Qaeda. And it was a very threatening tape. And so the discussion really revolved around what the intelligence was. There was no discussion of politics whatsoever.

John Roberts: There was also some controversy following the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston when the threat level was raised and was later found out that a lot of the information, or at least some of the information that played in to that decision to raise the threat level, was three-years-old. So there were a lot of people who were already suspicious. I mean, when you take these two things in combination, does it suggest that maybe people were looking at this idea – well, it is the fall of the election campaign, we're in a tight race here with John Kerry, maybe we could work some things to our advantage?

Townsend: You know, in fact, not only was there no discussion in those meetings, the discussions on the margins – you know one of the people who was in that meeting was John McLaughlin, the acting director of CIA, and John Brennan, the current homeland security adviser was then the head of the National Counterterrorism Center. The only discussions I recall were, on the margins of that, there was concern if the intelligence supported raising the threat level it might actually be to the detriment of President Bush because people might perceive it being political. In the end John, people have to remember, you want the Cabinet members who disagree to have a healthy debate. And this in the end came out in the right place. The threat level was not raised and there’s no reason to suspect this discussion would have had any impact on the election whatsoever.

Chetry: When we talk about whether or not politics played in to any of this equation, a lot of people say perhaps there are some political ambitions on the part of Tom Ridge and that he wants to perhaps separate himself from the Bush administration in some ways moving forward. Do you think that what he wrote or what he's alleging here perhaps has a political motivation?

Townsend: I've got to believe it does, Kiran. And I'm sorry to say that because I really enjoyed working with Tom Ridge. But I will tell you not only did he never say this at the time – that he thought political influence was involved in the raising or lowering of the threat level – he’s never said it since when I’ve spoken to him. And just two weeks ago – I'm co-chairing along with Bill Webster a bipartisan task force to make recommendations to Secretary Napolitano now about the threat advisory system. One of the things we obviously did was ask Tom Ridge and Secretary Chertoff to come in and talk to the panel. This is two weeks ago. And Tom Ridge never in that meeting ever mentioned any concern and he mentioned what concerns he had. He never mentioned any concern about politicization of the threat advisory system. So you've got to believe that this is personally motivated in some way.

Roberts: He’s not coming out to talk about this until the first of September. Between now and then … if he doesn't have specifics to back this up, he's going to get eaten alive by folks like you, Andy Card, and other Bush administration officials who are going to try to slam him down as hard as they can.

Townsend: Well John, I’ll tell you, last night I got my hands on one of the books and I looked at it. And, in fact, in other parts of the book, Tom acknowledges that politics never played a role in any of his decisions about the threat alert system. So you have to wonder if this is not just publicity meant to sell more books.


Filed under: Controversy • Politics
soundoff (365 Responses)
  1. wishing

    Tom was cut, dried, and left twisting slowly in the wind. She would have fit nicely in the Nixon administration.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  2. Butcch Z

    So many different people coming out of the Bush Administration with the same theme of politicalization of many different facets on the war on terrorism. Only a few hardcore Bush supporters saying “their wrong”. The facts speak for themselves; from selling the Bush / 9.11 photos to contributors to the Republican Party to Carl Rove’s memo to use 9.11 as a campaign issue to this.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Patrick

    To Tim:

    The terror threat hasn't gone away the Democrats just aren't concerned with it. You should be very concerned that they aren't concerned enough. We are in the midst of a global war and because of how successful we've been the attacks have only slightly gone down. But just look at the election violence in Afghanistan and the recent bombing in Iraq; Al Queda is still out there killing innocent people every day.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  4. ciaoman

    Filthy political Bush broad...

    August 21, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  5. scott in il

    congrats to CNN for starting to see thru the fog of what has been the most political presidency I can remember.

    And yes I'm talking about the Obama presidency. Is it really news that there is a political point of view in any major policy dicussion regardless of the party in power?

    The majority of americans are now complaining about what the president has done IN THE LAST 8 MONTHS.

    My comments may be in the minority on your web site but the fact remains that the phrase "the last eight years" is not an excuse for the
    political manipulation that this administration has conducted under that increasingly irrelavant excuse.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  6. Clark

    I can easily understand why an individual would argue to raise the threat level during a period of time surrounding a national election.

    Even the Karzai's government raised threat level and the security posture of his nation during the recent elections.

    Why does the media spin everything out of whack?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Dave

    So... the defense of Bush is that he also used terrorism to sway the election more than one time, and that makes it less bad because... um.

    Ok, I give up. Why is it not bad that the Republican Party used terrorism against the United States for financial and political gain?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  8. Patrick

    Of course the threat level wasn't politically motivated. It's amazing how the left has talked themself into believing all this fear mongering tactics that have no facts behind them. It's like watching school kids talk each other into believing things that aren't true at all.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  9. KLB

    This conspiracy stuff is so stupid. Remember when before every election after 9/11 that supposedly "Bin Laden is already caught, and Bush will trot him out right before the election to win it." Remember that one that never came true? And this stuff about 9/11 being an insde job? Everyone from Popular Mechanics to Mythbusters has debunked these "conspiracies". Remember the beams that looked like they were "cut with a torch"? They probably were, AFTERWARDS in order to make the area safe!!! You ever been in a demolition area where you have to cut certain things down to make it safe?? Geez people, use your brains.
    Did certain people want to raise the threat level in this meeting? Possibly. Did others disagree? Likely. Of course not everyone could have agreed in the first place, otherwise, WHY HAVE THE MEETING IN THE FIRST PLACE??!?! If everyone agreed, then they don't need a meeting, right??
    And the use of scare tactics? Just like Obama using scare tactics about health care?? About Afganistan?? Come on people, use your brains.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Joe Gerken

    CNN has a conflict of interest here. Frances Townsend is a Bush political hack. Deeming her a disinterested commentator makes CNN a mouthpiece for the Bush administration. Shame Shame.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Wm Scot

    Why is CNN hireing these people ? Has the corporation gotten to concerned that they need to get some of Fox News watcher to come over for their ratings. CNN has gotten off track from the good reporting they did in the past and are trying to " stir the pot" to get some tabliod reporting ratings.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Steve

    Frances has a history of defending the undefendable when it comes to the Bush Administartion. She is still on the Repubs payroll.

    Ok – lets have all of the parties she refers to testify under oath and take lie detector tests. They won't do it.

    The deceit and lawlessness of the Bush era continue to leak out and confirm what we already know. What a shameful legacy and a disgrace to those that still try to defend it in the face of facts.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  13. larry

    i guess people selling books have sellected memories

    August 21, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  14. Pete

    If Jesus came down from heaven to say "W" hadn't done anything wrong and the Satan showed up saying he was a tyrant ... I think most of the liberals would back the devil.......

    He's gone now, get over yourselves!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  15. Pat

    Really people. Do you forget that we were attacked by terrorists? Do you forget that there were several instances when the Bush Administration thwarted terrorist attacks on our soil? Are you really that short sighted and narrow minded? Is your hatred of President Bush so deep that you can’t even recognize that he kept us safe after 9/11? President Bush has many faults and made many mistakes, but he kept us safe and for that we should all be grateful.

    You have got to be kidding me.
    He kept us safe? Maybe we wouldn't have been attacked by terrorists in the first place if Bush hadn't IGNORED the memo in August stating that Bin Laden was determined to hijack a plane and fly into a building. What other attacks did he thwart? Anything credible? All I know is he put a lot of American soldiers in harm's way with that cluster-you-know-what war in Iraq.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  16. Bushie

    Let the hate go libs! It gets in the way of rational thinking! You cant see a thing.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  17. jphilly

    she basically just validated everything tom ridge said. she agreed that several people including ashcroft and rumsfeld wanted to up the security level. so tom ridge was right. However, fran cant speak on weather politics were the motivator as being merely an adviser she wouldnt be part of those high level conversations. so she can only give her opinion, just like tom ridge can give his. Its pretty obvious that bush and Co. jumped at the chance to raise the threat level just before the election. Thankfully we had people like tom ridge and collen powell in place to fight
    it. Its funny though how both of those men lost thier jobs after that election. i wonder why.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  18. Davo

    I think she's a liar, GW did anything and everything the POS wanted and did'nt give a rat's behind what anyone thought. I still waiting for someone to tell how and where he hide money that was lost. I still can't believe how many stupid people believe this guy was'nt a disaster, I know I've suffered and alot of my friends have lost their jobs.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  19. Kaima

    Aargghhh. Conjecture & more conjecture that's all I read. If Bush lied & people died, why was'nt he & members of his administration, specifically Karl Rove, impeached or prosecuted by a the democratically held congress? Clinton was impeached for simply lying about a dress. Rationality points to the facts which are simply that irrespective of how much Bush was/is hated, he kept within the law. Liberals need to find another pinada to poke. Obama anyone?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  20. GDS

    I don't believe Townsend for a minute. Every single thing the White House did it did for political purposes. It's nice that Ridge confirmed what everyone already knew, but it didn't come as a shock – it wasn't even a surprise. The Ridge revelations are being met with a collective, "Well, of course."

    August 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  21. Steve in Iowa

    Hey Jackie. Obama inherited the war AND the economic woes we are now facing from the Bush admistration and if you don't believe that you're walking around with blinders on. Oh, I forgot. Anyone who thinks GWB did a good job will ALWAYS think he did a good job no matter what the TRUTH is! The only thing Obama is guilty of is being such a weenie about health care. I will never understand what makes him think he'll EVER get anyone from the party of "NO" to go along with him on this issue. The GOP leaders have more or less told us all that they want Obama to fail and they'll do ANYTHING to make sure that happens! Even if it means bringing the entire country down with him. Obama needs to blow off the GOP on this one and keep his party together. After all, THAT'S what the Bush administration did when they had control of the house, senate, and white house....

    August 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  22. DT

    I beleive Tom Ridge over her.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  23. David

    of course, CNN hires a Bush insider to dispute allegations against the Bush administration. hmmm.... anybody see a conflict of interest here? this woman is as much of a fraud as anyone else in the Bush admin. With few exceptions, the entirety of that admin was based on fraud, lies, and fear-mongering. townsend is certainly no different, and the fact that she is now a CNN commentator says it all. typical.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  24. Matthew

    The "elephant in the room" is never discussed. (Almost) All appointed members of the government are constantly aware of the political implications of their decisions. If they weren't, they would not have been appointed. Townsend is smart. She can "tell the truth" by saying political implications were never discussed. Unfortunately, she was not asked whether SHE was aware of the political implications of the discussion. OF COURSE she was, as were the others at that meeting. Ridge may have ulterior motives. Townsend's willingness to throw her hat in the ring and dance around the truth compromises her journalistic integrity.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  25. Jeff

    The fact that you all think Obama is any better than Bush is just pathetic. He is the most partisan, ultra liberal president we have had since Johnson. He and his ultra left crew (Pelosi, Holder, Frank, etc) are making fools of themselves on healthcare, the economy and the two cash for clunkers program. And what do you do?....you keep blaming Bush and finding minute news stories like this to keep the witch hunt alive. I'm glad it makes you feel better, but don't expect your misguided hatred to fix the many critical issues that your 'change agents' are now bungling beyond any human recognition.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  26. sqeptic

    Let us all concede that fear is a very powerful tool in politics. Now, let us all concede that the very same fear tactic was applied to bailout, stimulus, and now health care.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  27. Howard

    Dave – you have it EXACTLY right. Ridge's book must be selling slowly so he and his publisher have decided to bring this up now. If he felt so strongly about it, why didn't we hear about it in 1994? This is just another politician trying to make a fast buck. Best thing to do is NOT buy his book.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  28. Stephen B

    When it come to faith in the motivations from the Bush Administration, I have less faith than the Biblical Mustard Seed!

    Non-political? In a pig's eye!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  29. Mark

    What gets me is all these stupid liberals saying "There is absolutely no doubt that the bush administration tried to use fear to get their way "
    You idiots know NOTHING for a fact and talk like you do. You spout insipid quasi-facts like a dog with the runs with about equal value.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  30. Gramsci3000

    Liberty&Tyranny: "We were a year into the war in Iraq…of course the terror alert should’ve been on High….Liberals are idiots."

    I guess you overlooked the memo on how there WERE NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION and that Al Qaeda HAD NO PRESENCE IN IRAQ (until after we invaded it). But hey, if you're arguing that Bush's policies made our country inherently less safe, I'm with you.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  31. rAJ

    I wonder if there is anyone in the country who believes what she is trying to prove. Unfortunately for Kerry the fear tactic worked.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  32. Ridge is an Opportunist

    Ridge has zero credibility ion this. he is tryingto sell a book and looking for press and PR.

    There were 25 people in the meeting – from every intelligence group - Only Ridge tells this story. And why now, years later? Becasue his book is out.

    Tom Ridge is an idiot looking to make a buck There is no story here unless you are a left wing radical conspiator theorist or working for CNN

    August 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  33. S Callahan

    ..hmm i tend to side with Tom Ridge on this...truthfully....I think you'd find a majority of citizens siding with him.....he may not have said it, nor the public said it, yet so many thought it and still do.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  34. Bill Carney

    Neither Fran Townsend nor anyone in the Bush Administration is credible. Let's see here:

    George W. Bush: "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction."

    Colin Powell: "Not only does Saddam Hussein have weapons of mass destruction, we know where they are."

    Dick Cheney: "We have found weapons of mass destruction."

    Need more proof anyone?

    August 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  35. Gramsci3000

    Why would CNN use someone who worked FOR the administration as a contributor, and why aren't American citizens of every party outraged at how complicit cable media is with whoever is in power? Honestly, Dan Rather lost his job at CBS after a LIFETIME of journalistic credibility over one story, while CNN, FauxNews, etc, do not even pretend to aspire to objective, populist-based reporting.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  36. Brian

    You people are too stupid to vote. Please don't do so ever again. You think you actually know insider information about what goes on in the White House? Give me a break. All you have is hearsay and innuendo. Proof, or it didn't happen.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  37. Patrick Clarke

    Has the threat level even been raised since that election? I think the answer is no, therefore it is hard for me to believe that politics played no role in raising it at that time.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  38. Shep2020

    I'm sure Fox News will now give Ms. Townsend's resume the attention it deserves.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  39. Brian

    Don't forget that prior to the '04 election, Condelezza Rice advocated suspending the election. There is ample evidence that the Bush WH did in use the "fear tactic" to get the american public to fall in line. The frightening thing is just how much it resembled 1930's Nazi Germany. Spy on your own citizens, incarceration without due process, report on your neighbors and overt threats to other nations to either be "with us or you're against us".

    Sadly the same fear tactics are being used today by the GOP.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  40. WarhammerTwo

    I just think is kind of peculiar that once the 2004 election was over, the whole alert system kinda just vanished. Seriously, that dopey chart dominated the news all the time and then Bush won another term and -poof- the terror level chart disappeared from the nightly news. i mean, it may have popped up from timte to time after the election, but if it did, I have no recollection of it. that's how infrequestly it reared its head afterwards.

    It could make perfect sense that with an election coming up, levels may have indeed been elevated as terrorists may have wanted to disrupt elections. It may have been legitimate. But the fact that the system went into near extinction afterwards makes me raise a slightly suspicious eyebrow.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  41. DFinFL

    In Washington, everyone lies and nothing is illegal.

    ..

    August 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  42. Frustrated

    I find this amazing how everyone that worked in the Bush administration had no problems then, but now that they need some
    money and publicity they are writing so called "tell all books". So now we are supposed to believe them. Give me a break.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  43. Timca

    Isn't Tom Ridge out of the public sector now? I doubt his disclosure of the events was politically motivated. I just think it speaks to the fact that the Bush cronies AGAIN wanted to win the White House at any cost and not let the public decide without tilting the scales in their favor, ethically or otherwise.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  44. Travis

    Omg, are people still trying to claim conspiracies over this? The sad part is Kerry was a terrible candidate and instead of admitting it, the Kerry supporters just shout conspiracy.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  45. Jeff Brown

    Sorry Lady, Ridge has it RIGHT! The Bush Administration used FEAR to manipulate people and to deny that would be a lie!

    August 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  46. JJMurray

    Some of you folks are just so funny. Bush and all his folks are liars! But Ridge who WAS one of those folks must be believed no matter what anyone else says. So the Bush folks can only be believed if they bash Bush. Great criteria for determining their truthfulness.
    Now, if he had actually raised the threat level based on this meeting there might be something to sniff at, but in fact it wasn't raised so obviously the "pressure" wasn't all that great, if it existed at all.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  47. ChicagoJim

    She is a Bushie from the word "go". That's why I wanted to see him arrested, so people of her ilk would not be able to speak with unfettered voice for fear of supporting Bush's conspiracy. Obama hasn't done anything to bring this criminal to justice.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  48. Milton Freedman

    We know from concrete historical evidence that Franklin Roosevelt did this consistently during the Depression and WWII. His acts, if known, would never get him re-elected today, not even for the 2nd term. His spin was atrocious and potentially criminal by today's standards. Remember, he was already censured by Congress years before his first run and called a professional liar by members of his own party on the floor of Congress. Look it up. And he was President 4 times over. Nowadays, like before, who really knows outside the inner circle? Is Obama doing it? Who knows? The posters here have no clue if this stuff is true. We will only believe what we are predisposed to believe. Some believe Bush was completely capable of it. Others Obama. We always find out much, much later.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  49. Tim

    I believe her as much now as I did back then....zilch, zero, nada......that whole Bush crowd used the fear threat constantly to make their cases.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  50. Paul

    It's great that Bush has moved on but the problem is we have a guy that gives a great speech and knows how to get folks registered for welfare running the show. It will be clear to most eveyone (except you far level folks) that Big O is a post turtle. You know he doesn't belong up there, don't know how he got there and can't undestand who placed him there. Just like Jimmy Carter was selected as the president (VOTE AGAINST NIXON) Big O was elected as a vote against Bush. Enjoy Carter 2.0. You and I will pay for this for years to come just like Carter.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  51. jls

    If all of this was true, why didn't Ridge resign "right on the spot" when he was first asked to do this??? Why bring it up now? Why, to sell books of course. Doesn't add up, if you ask me.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  52. L . B .

    None of this suprises me.Frances may no be giving us information is vital and important.The fact that a meeting was called to perpretrate a fraud at the highest levels of our government is what is astounding ! This speaks to the integrity of those in power at that time and the methods that they would use to hi-jake this nation and rest power in the hands of their chosen body. This describes "anarchay". This is "treason". Those very person's that questioned our patriotism were robbing us of the very foundations that our nation was built on.We have got to always remember "The Dixie Chicks",these are the people that, on a whim, ruined them because they dared speak out."The Dixie Chicks" were the couregous!
    We recently found out that there were Cuban spies in our midst.They had been operating for years.We are now trying them and anticipate puting them in jail for years.What gives us the right to "OUT" one of our own spies ?? This same group of people did this.Is it just words on a page that we want or do we want to be responsible ?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  53. Dan

    This is a woman who, in her resignation letter to W, said:

    "In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: 'There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.' Mr. President, you are such a man."

    How can anyone believe a person who is this dillusional.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  54. Scott Evans

    Why should we believe this individual, when her boss has come out saying the opposite.

    Ridge's confessions were really no surprise at all; just confirmation of the obvious fear tactics that GWB was employing throughout his 8 years in power.

    God bless Ridge for being honest.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  55. Jeff W.

    She's just another spin doctor on behalf of the Bush administration. Ridge only confirmed the obvious. Make no mistake, without 9-11, there would be no Bush administration and they had no qualms about using the death of Americans to further their partisan agenda. Every American whether they be republican, democrat or libertarian should be appalled and offended.

    Now the republicans are comparing Obama to Hitler? Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Only Hitler would have been sleazy enough to use the death of his countrymen to further his warped visions.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  56. Josh

    Two interviewers, one former senior govt official, and all three purposefully miss the point and/or just twist the story to their own respective agenda. Ridge simply wrote that he THOUGHT politics may be driving the discussion, and this left him personally disaffected. This is significant in and of itself as insight into Ridge's biography, but it is also socially insofar as the AG ans SecDef could possibly have been acting in such a corrupt manner. The interview completely misses the mark on both counts–Ridge simply made no representation whatsoever regarding a discussion of politics at that meeting; in fact it is absurd to think that sort of discussion would be explicit in any event.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  57. Eric

    Tom Ridge needs to drum up sales for his new book. What she is saying makes the most rational sense. Of course the die hard W haters out there will believe Ridge, which is exactly what he's going for. I think I should write a book about how much I hate W so that I can make a million dollars!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  58. MikinAZ

    If anyone does not believe that the Bush administration used the "Threat Level" changes to keep this country in fear – they are naive or they are staunch republicans who also thought Bush and Brownie did a good job during Katrina. If you can't hear Dick Cheney's evil laugh in the background while the picture of him wringing his hands comes to mind every time the "Threat Level" was raised – you probably still think Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. Lets review – institute a warning bell, ring it every now and then, claim to have thwarted nonexistent attacks, attempt to create yourself the legacy of a hero keeping his country safe time and time again...are those the steps?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  59. Greg

    I believe the Clinton administration was accused of similar tactics a time or two. Bottom line if you think politicians (Republican and Democrat) are not constantly trying to manipulate your opinion rather than argue their case based upon the facts you're in a fantasy land.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  60. Mike M

    I have no respect for the Cheney-Bush administration, and thoroughly regret what they have done to America and its reputation. But the debate Ridge complains about is exactly what I want our top policy folks to engage in. It is heartening to know that even in a bone-headed administration like Cheney-Bush, there was intelligent debate going on between people of different opinions. And that they came to the right decision. I worry about folks who find "proof" of wrong-doing in the mere fact that a discussion took place.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  61. cathie

    Sorry Frances I don't believe a word that you are saying.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  62. New Yorker

    What did you expect from the Bush/Cheney administration? Worst presidency ever!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  63. Corey Christian

    Its really no wonder that something like this would pop up years later.

    Does it really need to be discussed in the meeting to be implied though?

    How many tapes did they go through years before and after that threat level was never raised, and what were the positions of the accused then?

    Did politics play a role? my guess would be yes, but then again nothing in Washington happens without people taking the politics into concern, dem or rep.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  64. MAQ

    Sure Ms. Townsend Ridge is wrong and you are right....Ridge was a Homeland Security Chief and you were a little tag along adviser, and you got it right and Ridge has it alllll wrong? Do you think people are stupid?Besides, this is not the first time that a former Bush Administration official came out of the closet to rat on Bush and Cheney. All of these former adminstration officials are telling lies about various things, right? It's a conspiracy right? It amazes me corrupt 2001-2008 Admin was. Possibly one of the most dangerous leadership in our country's history.

    Hey, ALABAMA BRAIN TRUST: Your comments are dumb as your State name reflects it.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  65. David

    It seems clear that both Ridge is pitching his book and that also Townsend is trying to deceive. Note how she tries to maneuver in her first response. And then she states that politics was not discussed in the meetings. Of course, there would be no need to discuss politics, even if politics were the prime undercurrent pushing positions. Well, maybe being openly lied to will make us more sensitive to falsehood in the future before choosing irrational invasion of another country over, for example, reasonable health care in the US.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  66. cjr

    oh really !this is coming from the white house that supported torture. Nothing these people say should be believed. I stll say that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield will end up at the Hague – Can't think of a better venue for them.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  67. DB

    Tom Ridge was floated by the Republicans as a potential VP candidate in 2008, and was in charge of Homeland Security. He is certainly credible, especially when he is implicating himself. His hands are not clean in this story.

    More proof of the appalling and corrupt Bush Administration.

    As to those that think this situation constituted due process, what a bunch of moronic suckers. I'd love to be a right-wing politician and have you as my constituents. I would pull your strings like a marionette. You people don't deserve to live in a democratic republic. You are too stupid for that. You should live in a totalitarian state where the leader tells you what to do and you sheepishly follow.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  68. mag

    So, she's calling Tom Ridge a boldfaced liar?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  69. Tom Harris

    This woman does not contradict anything Ridge says. There is only her opinion that politics did not play a part in raising the threat level, and his belief that it did. The timing is certainly suspect, but so is every other fear-mongering tactic used by the Bush administration to increase and secure their power. These are the people that got us into the most costly war the US has ever waged ON A LIE. Then, the people at the top profiteered on that war.

    CNN, why are you reporting this as "news"? This is not news, it is opinion.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  70. Right

    Who do you expect Townsend to support? – Bush who gave her the job for which she was no good at? OR Tom Ridge?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  71. Lisa in Shelton

    LLPOF – liar liar pants on fire – the Bush WH, their moles and pundits and fundraisers never tell the whole truth. This is a work of fiction.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  72. Liberty&Tyranny

    We were a year into the war in Iraq...of course the terror alert should've been on High....Liberals are idiots.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  73. Jackie in Dallas

    Ah, lady, give it a rest. It was quite clear to most clear thinking American citizens that Bush and Cheney, backed by Ashcroft and others, used the threat of terrorist attacks as a way to shut down real debate on foreign policy issues and on the Constitutionality of the Patriot Act.

    To "The Truth": the story refers to a time period THREE YEARS after 9/11. We were already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. So yes, raising the terror alert level before the election was not legitimate...it was strictly political, and even members of Bush's own staff and Cabinet KNEW that. You've conveniently forgotten that Bush and Cheney were actually informed of the probablity of terrorist attacks in the months of July and August of 2001 and did NOT raise awareness levels or move the National Security threat level at all - in fact, Bush went on vacation.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  74. Pete

    If Francis Townsend has less credibility than a "soybean" and is a "clown" why would Secretary Napolitano ask her to co-chair a bipartisan task force to make recommendations about the threat advisory system? Sounds like the Obama Administration thinks she has a lot of credibility.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  75. tom

    He should sell millions of books now. He gets an A+ in marketing.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  76. Mike in Los Angeles

    I don't know what is more frightening – how effectively the Bush Administration and the GOP used Fear to practically torch the Bill Of Rights and con a pathetically gullible portion of the U.S. public into allowing them to do whatever they wanted while in power despite the obvious lack of truth to any of their spin, or the fact that the GOP is still very effectively using the same tactics on the same portion of ignorant Americans in their effort to derail health care reform. Anyone dumb enough to fall for these tactics deserves the misery the GOP reigns down on them.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  77. Hank

    I do not believe that Tom Ridge would write this if it was not true. The Bush administration was throughly corrupt. It did things like this repeatedly. This is only one instance. There were many. Lies about weapons of mass destruction, lies about torture and lies about rating on Valarie Plame. The list is long. The Bush legacy is frightening. It was successful in silencing the press.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  78. KLj

    Politics may not have discussed at the meeting she is referencing, but I believe it may have discussed by others prior to the meetings.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  79. david

    Bottom line: all these posted comments reflect personal political bias. No one here was there, so no one knows the truth.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  80. bobby

    agreed. the left is really beginning to get scared with obama's rating dropping like a rock and most of the country going nuts over health care reform. i think they are beginning to panic...maybe a little too much. it's early...you may still be OK. you own congress and the senate now – too soon to be freaking out. you're going to last at least another 3 1/2 years.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  81. Len

    To Ben and the Alabama Brain Drain, BUSH and Associates were LIARS. You people should let it go. Bush, Chenney and friends should be on trial just like the Nazis were after WWII, but the Democrats are spineless. Hopefully the rest of the world will go after these crimminals.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  82. Jake

    Why is she coming out and defending Bush and companions? Let Tom Ridge speak for himself and defend himself... Too suspicious! She might be part of the problem..

    August 21, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  83. Jackie

    To "Just let it go" – the reason we're still talking about Bush is because we're living the nightmare that his administration let happen every day.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  84. Independent

    Here we go again, they usual line is, "What he ment to say was???" Well, I do believe he is telling the truth....always told my son when he was growing up, tell the truth, cause if you lie, it will catch up with you later and be a whole lot worse....seems to be happening doesn't it...

    I guess that is why Mr. Ridge left....tired of the lies....

    August 21, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  85. David

    I suspect that this woman may be factually correct regarding this particular meeting. What she said had the ring of truth. However, the Bush administration along with the entire Republican party has learned that combining the terms "terrorism" and "patriotism" in the same sentence is a wonderful tool for manipulating the psyche of the American people to abandon any sense of justice. They are even testing the idea of combining other concepts like "freedom" and "free choice" with "patriotism" in the healthcare debate to see if they can manipulate the American people to believe they are better off to put control of their health in the hands of corporate CEOs and boards of directorsof insurance companies and to abandon any sense of social justice as being un-American. Judging by the town hall meetings they are quite successful there too.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  86. Paul

    Reading this I don't think she's really disputing anything Tom Ridge has written. She says that others, including Colin Powell, disagreed with raising the threat level. Ok, but that doesn't eliminate the fact that Ashcroft and others wanted it raised. The root here is around opinion. Ridge feels the Bush advisors wanted it raised over politics. Townsend's opinion is they didn't. I'd like to ask both Townsend and Ridge if their offered opinions are based on politics?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  87. disgusted, Midland, PA

    The George W. Bush administration used fear to motivate the American public, and the American public fell for it. The administration had no use for reason and no use for discourse. As one of the 5% who did not buy into GWB's rationale for going to war against Iraq (since it was bin Laden and not Hussein who attacked us on 9/11/2001), I was told by the misinformed majority to "shut up."

    The American public is going to be fooled over and over again because the majority are very gullible and stupid people.

    This is why a Republic based on individual rights, and not a democracy based on mob rule, is the best form of government. This is why the Founding Fathers gave Congress, NOT THE PRESIDENT, the power to declare war, so that logical discourse could prevent a tyrant from placing Americans in harm's way to fulfill a private agenda. As a result of the subversion of our Constitution, we haven't had a legal war since WWII.

    As a sensible, reasonable individual, I do not want to be pushed around and bullied by fools, even though they might be a majority.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  88. Peter

    Agreed with mk above. ... Tom Ridge could have stood up and screamed at the top of his lungs when Bush and his ilk were scaring the American public. Now that it is too late he comes out to clear his head…..too late bucko, I hope you rot in hell, you traitorous ass. ...
    I usually didn't like Bush Jr. Now I fell pitty for him: He failed because of his Senior Staffs failed him like: Cheney, Collin Power, and now Tom Ridge. I think they better shut their mouths

    August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  89. Gesha

    Well, the way I see it, its his word vs hers unless someone else comes forward. The problem is, the folks that would come forward, all have some sort of agenda to influence what they would say, so you can't take any of them at their word. The best you can do is judge if they are telling the truth from their past actions. When you do that, things start looking very bad for Townsend since the administration has had a problem differentiating between facts and 'convinient relatiy'. You can only lie so many times before you're branded a liar. You ever hear that story of the boy who cried wolf? Well, Ms Townsend, you've been spending too much time with that boy to be believed. At least Ridge resigned a month afterwards and I don't blame him. It would be extremely foolhardy to go up against the administration while you are in it, considering how many shadowy alliances and friendships connect this group of people. I certainly would have kept my mouth shut too, but 2, 3 years down the road – I would definitly want to set my record straight so that I do not go down in history associated with the worst disaster to have hit the US in the 00's.

    "The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."

    August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  90. Charlie Sambros

    Yea, they faked the terror environment all together. They also stole the election from Gore and they put OIL back in business for their buddies back at home....Duhh.... All the blood shed in the middle east because of those crony's. There will be judgement for them. And the funny thing about life is, you live it and you die. Nothing material lasts forever. Remember the soul will always reap what your sins have sewed....

    August 21, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  91. RB

    Why do we keep going back to interview these liars? Who cares what they think? What we know already is that over an 8 year period they were willing to lie about everything, in spite of the fact that their lies resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and the destruction of several societies. If human death & destruction couldn't move them to be honest, what makes us think that Kiran Chetry is capable of drawing the truth out this profesional deceiver? She and the rest of that administration should take George Bush's lead and disappear back under the rocks from which they came.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  92. Dave

    DMR -President Reagan was an honorable man and respected the laws of this nation

    Are you kidding me? Ever hear of Iran-Contra? Respect the laws of this nation my @ss

    August 21, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  93. Michael in San Diego

    The Bush apologists continue to be so pathetic!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  94. Bill C

    Really people. Do you forget that we were attacked by terrorists? Do you forget that there were several instances when the Bush Administration thwarted terrorist attacks on our soil? Are you really that short sighted and narrow minded? Is your hatred of President Bush so deep that you can't even recognize that he kept us safe after 9/11? President Bush has many faults and made many mistakes, but he kept us safe and for that we should all be grateful.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  95. Yoda

    Tom Ridge is in good company. General Colin Powell, Scott McClellan, Richard Clarke all did their duty as upstanding American citizens attempting to expose the Bush administration for what it was. Bush and Co. did a fantastic job of manipulating the American public through their lies.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  96. AndyF

    I dont really care about your personal stripes – in fact, I think I may be the last American in America – that is, I am not a republican, not a democrat, not a conservative, and not a liberal – I am just an American.

    And as an American, anyone, and I mean ANYONE trying to suggest that the Bush administration was somehow "honest" or upstanding is simply nuts. You only have to look at the record.

    Bush and his gang lied to all Americans about Iraq. When the lies were exposed, they simply re-tinkered the lies. 5000 American soldiers are now dead because of those lies and what have we gotten in Iraq? Nothing but dead Americans.

    Bush and his whackos tell us we must fight the war in Afghanistan to "keep Americans safe". That concept is purely absurd on its face – NO WAR EVER on anyone EVER made anyone anywhere else "safe" because you cannot wipe out an enemy. You can hurt them, slow them down – but eliminate them? It has NEVER happened. ...and it wont in Afghanistan – so once again Americans die in a foreign country for NOTHING.

    George Bush and his gang did more damage, more destruction for nothing, and more lying than any other President in our history and the ONLY people who think he did something "good" are people so filled with racism and odd ideas that well, they dont really even matter – they are the whacko fringe.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  97. mike

    Doesn't Townsend contradict herself by saying, "There was no discussion of politics whatsoever," then in her next response saying, "The only discussions I recall were, on the margins of that, there was concern if the intelligence supported raising the threat level it might actually be to the detriment of President Bush because people might perceive it being political"?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  98. Tom (Chicago)

    Do any of the crazies posting on this think for one second that Mr. Obama doesn't check popularity polls before deciding on what color socks to wear??? The Obama administration is unparalled in its inability to make any move without first assessing how it will impact its political power.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  99. Mark Olsen

    Members of the Bush administration are liars. Add Frances Townsend to the list. But what does Townsend care? She's sacrificed the truth to further her own interests. She's built an ongoing income stream at the expense of America. She has no conscience. By sidling up to the power brokers and money bags of a corrupt political administration she's sold out and guaranteed her future as a television pundit, author and public speaker. In this culture of celebrity what more could she want?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  100. tony santaniello

    just call it another 'confession by royalty"–book royalty, that is

    August 21, 2009 at 11:36 am |
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