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August 21st, 2009
10:01 AM ET

Frances Townsend: Tom Ridge has it wrong

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. The Truth

    So raising the terror alert level prior to the first presidential election after the worst terrorist attack ever conducted on U.S. soil is not a legitimate reason?

    Military bases overseas raise their alert levels for less and that was before 9/11. People who are saying that raising the alert level are nothing more than fear mongering for political gain are the same people that would be first in line to demand to know why the level was not raised if something did happen. Ever hear of the term better safe than sorry? They want people who are trying to make us safe sorry and at the same time make them sorry if they are not safe.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  2. truth to power

    More lies from the Bush people!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  3. Kim

    Of course she would say that. It would take a real foul to believe her.
    It just amazes me how stupid they think the American people are.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  4. dean

    Ms Townsend you are so full of it. Save it for the your GOP cronies.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  5. spokanebob

    The left is losing ground each and every day. Approval ratings for this administration are dropping as people wake up to the fallacies of this administration. Soon this administration will create a crisis to raise public approval. Read the book from Ridge. This article does a horrible job of relating the position of Ridge.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  6. Jon Gill

    I believe Tom Ridge. Always a stand=up guy and a good governor of my state his integrity is unquestioned.
    Those of us with brains knew all along that the truth took a back seat to whatever Darth Vader(Cheney) wanted so this is no surprise.
    Tom Ridge is just the latest honest person to come forward with the real truth and not Bush ficiton.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  7. Scott

    Sorry, Fran, but while Ridge deserves no credit for revealing this now instead of in 2004, I believe him a lot more than I believe you.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  8. mjm

    Well, that's settled.

    There was no political pressure to raise the threat level.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  9. bobby

    And who in any responsible position never gets pushed to do something that you are uncomfortable with? I am constantly pushed to do things that I don't agree with and it is my responsibility to do what I think is right. Tom is basically saying that he is a weene and has no backbone.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:32 am |
  10. Kim

    Of course she would say that it would take a foul to think anything different.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  11. John in SD

    I can't wait until an Obama Admin official comes forward and admits that the "swine flu" frenzy was engineered to drum up support for a government take-over of health insurance in this country.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  12. RJ

    Follow-up to my previous comment on the media. I don't think that the media has the integrity to objectively cover the Obama Administration. They couldn't objectively cover Bush neither.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  13. Gary

    Gas prices dip just before elections. Terror alert levels go up. Same old same old. The US has a massive propaganda machine and it uses it well. It fools most who just don't have the time or inclination to verify the facts/statements for themselves or actually research and understand what is going on fully. This lack of understanding spreads over into the news Media. Ask yourself why the reports in the news media are always quick glances with little to no detail. (i.e. This happened.. the end). Foreign media, such as in Japan, actually take time during the broadcast to -explain- what is in the news in detail, so the observer actually knows the facts and help them come to their own conclusion. Rather than 'BEING TOLD' how to think things are.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  14. Terry

    And she is now a CNN National Security contributor? Give me a break.

    Who would trust her comments?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  15. iamacamera

    BDs (Bush Derangement Syndrome) is still alive. All of you have your shorts in a knot and are still feeding your bleeding ulcers over Bush. He's in Texas enjoying life. You need to get a life; or are you just like Barama Obak. Everything that happens isn't Bush's fault. That there hasn't been a major terrorist attack in eight years isn't an accident. You should be glad that we had (past tense) a President who had enough testosterone n his system to do what was right even at personal expense; not like this bunch of weenies in Washington now.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  16. Michael

    Townsend is making use of one of the most effective lies in politics when she states "there was no discussion" of raising the terrorism threat level for political reasons. Everyone in the bush administration was well aware of the advantage that could be gained by frightening the public. No discussion of political advantage was necessary. Moreover, why shold we lend any credence to Townsend or CNN when she is now a paid employee at CNN. CNN national security contributor ? What a laugh.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  17. Mountain Dude

    Cheney and Bush played fear at every turn. Heck they scared some so bad they have never come back to their senses.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  18. Gary

    I doesn't take long for the far-right hit-machine to swing into action against anybody who publicly disagrees with their orthodoxy. But for CNN to lend itself to the effort further erodes CNN's credibility. Isn't one Fox News enough? Having your interviewers lob softball questions worded to help a true believer attack Tom Ridge is intruding well into Bill O'Reilly's airspace.

    I'd say "Shame on CNN," but I have no reason to believe anybody there is capable of feeling any.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  19. Steve in Iowa

    Nice try Ms. Townsend, but I don't believe you for a millisecond! We can add this one to the lenghly list of ILLEGAL acts committed by the Bush administration. The GWB administration will go down in history as the most corrupt administration to ever reside in Washington! Their acts were dispicable and unforgivable. It has left a stain on our country's reputation that will remain for decades to come.

    The maddening part of all this is that the Obama administration seems to be willing to turn a blind eye to all of the previous administration's illegal acts. To me this makes the Obama administration guilty of conspiring to cover up these obsene and hateful acts by simply ignoring them. So our country's reputation remains stained and our government's word doesn't mean s%@! anymore! How sad to see this great country of ours ruined by those people we entrusted to protect it ....

    August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  20. bobby

    Please bring Bush back! We are in a crisis with government right now that is incredible.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  21. RJ

    Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, now there's a couple of arrogant dudes. I just believe that Bush had no idea what was going on in his Adminstration. He trusted these two clowns (and Chaney) way too much and stuck with them way too long. If he had some ba@@s and had got rid of them early, maybe his legacy wouldn't be as tarnished as it is now. The far right (and far left) are very scary and can never be trusted for the betterment of the US. I just hope we in America have our eyes open better with the Obama Adminstration than we did with Bush. Power breeds corruption. I think Obama is getting way too much of a free pass from the media. It's in our interests for them to "supervise" the new Administration with thefortitude they used with the Bush Adminstration. just my opinion.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  22. Tracy

    Left, right, liberal, conservative, libertarian, democrat, republican. If any of you think that anything that politicians do is not influenced by politics and its political effects on them you are naive beyond repair.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  23. Steve from PA

    Tom Ridge and Colin Powell are the only 2 GOPers that have any backbone to stand up to W. I have lots of respect for both's a shame thaye coludn't have revolted sooner!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  24. Ted Tartaglia

    Fran Townsend was a propaganda/publicity expert for the Bush administration. Everything she says in defense of her former bosses and is self-serving at best.

    Everything the Bush administration undertook was thoroughly vetted for political advantage before action was taken. Karl Rove, the Bush political advisor, held a position equal to cabinet rank for a purpose; he was not window dressing. If anyone wants a model on how NOT to govern, they need look no farther than the Bush administration.

    Look at the Repubs now. Everything they are doing is for political gain; they could care less about the American citizen. They are only interested in trying to return to power. If the American people are smart, the Repubs will wander in the wilderness for at least forty years.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  25. MCD, SF, CA

    It all comes down to perception. When it comes to Ashcroft and Rumsfeld I would trust Ridge's perception over hers. Of course they aren't going to openly discuss the politics of it... she would have to be foolish to think that they would. I'm also sure that Cheney's fingerprints are all over this.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  26. Hamed Haeri

    The very same people are now raising the alert on health care trying to subvert it into failure with inpunity and arrogance. When do the American people wake up and realize how shrewd the conservative movement has destroyed the relationship between the government and the people. I donot believe Frances Townsend.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  27. Chuck

    There's no story here. Nothing happened. Some say pressure was put on Ridge to up the security risk level and some say it wasn't, but it's a moot point because it was never raised. It's an entire story about NOTHING HAPPENING!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  28. Ed

    I hope the majority of Americans understand how "spin" is used by all sides to try and influence public opinion to favor their view. In this case I am amazed at the bias that exists in the minds of so many on "BOTH" sides of this debate. I just resent how the press uses headlines to try and "spin" the news in a particular direction that will support the bias of the press or grab attention to get more readers. Shame on everyone.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  29. Frank

    As was pointed out in the past by MSNBC, there is a direct correlation between the terror alert level and political expediency in the Bush Administration. I do believe Ridge and question CNN's motive to put an opposing view on page 1.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  30. Terry - Indiana

    One nice thing about the Freedom of Information Act, all of the claims and finger pointing will be aired out for the public, in due course. I would trust Tom Ridge before I would trust George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or anyone supporting them in an effort to cover their own butts going forward. Frankly, Bush yelled "possible attack" every-time he wanted to get the media off his back.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  31. erie native

    i've know tom ridge almost all of my life. he has always been forthright and honest. this is townsend setting her self up to be the next presidential nomination or join the party ticket.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  32. Phyllis Sanders

    I don't beleive any republican, what ever comes out of their mouths is a lie, guaranteed. thank you

    August 21, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  33. Marc L

    Here's the problem. One of them is lying. Believe who you want, but the truth is we really don't know. Of course Bush haters are going to believe Ridge because it just adds fuel to their fire, if for no other reason. The problem is, ALL of our politicians lie like this, he said/she said. It is not a Republican/ Democrat thing. They want you to believe that, but it is not true. They all lie. Pelosi has been in this situation many times as well. She says one thing, an insider says another. Most people believe one over the other for no other reason than their feelings towards the person. If you already hate Bush, of course you are going to believe Tom Ridge. If you already hate Pelosi, of course you are going to think automatically that she is lying. This is what they want. Both parties want us to be irrational. It is easier for them to control the masses and the mobs.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  34. Justin

    How is this a story? "Policy" is merely the end result of any "political" debate. The root of each word proves the point ("poli-"). Democratic, Republican, Socialistic, or Anarchistic: a policy is enacted ONLY after the politicians have reached a consensus, even if that consensus is to perpetually disagree. Overarching ideals and/or petty personal rivalries aside, the political consensus was that it would be impolitick to raise the threat level at that time in light of (or in spite of) the imminent presidential election. Milk spilled. Move on.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  35. Bill

    Lots of emoting going on from every angle. Wouldn't an audio or video or minutes be nice? We all have learned from our earliest days to CYA and to try to be the guy in white on a white horse. These are after-the-fact maneuvers and not the gutsy "don't do it!!" at the moment heroics. I'd like to beleve SOMEBODY, but I don't have a program for this play. Who are the Good Guys? Anybody?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  36. Southern

    How can supposedly intelligent people miss the real point?
    The security level was NOT raised.


    No wonder they call you Dims.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  37. lucy2

    Based on everything else we've learned about the Bush admin.'s methods and actions, I don't doubt this for a second. It was 8 years of manipulation for political and probably in some cases personal gain. Of course she's going to deny it, but sorry, not buying the denial.
    I would have been more impressed with Ridge had he, oh I dont' know, spoken up THEN! I realize it would have been career suicide, but if he really felt that was happening and wanted to do what was right, then would have been the time to stand up and say publicly, hey these guys are trying to manipulate you and scare you into re-electing them. Instead he reveals it now for a book. Everyone tells the truth or points fingers after it's too late to do anything about it.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  38. Nate

    And there are people questioning Obama's credibility right now. Is there any real comparison to the level of deciet in the Bush Administration?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  39. Carl Justus

    I will believe Tom Ridge, he has proved himself to be trustworthy. The others loyalty to a person or a party is not even worthy of comment. We heard enough lies from the Bush Whitehouse and so called advisors that I would even think of believing any of them, unless I personally saw the memo, order, or an email saying the opposite of what I believe.

    The lies did not stop at one department, it was like a cancer in the entire administration starting at the top and ran down the entire group of advisors into all the departments and agencies.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  40. Scott

    Both sides lie. Since the beginning of man, the political process, once your in power, involves keeping the power by ant means necessary. None are immune to it – politicians and businesspeople. Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, they all lie to keep the power. Those who don't eventually get beat by those who do. As voters we only love politicians that lie.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  41. WAS

    Seems people who respond to this article are playing their own game of politics. When are the so-called Democrats going to leave this alone and focus on what is happening now, they are the idiots who elected the current administration and for Hannah Stevens to insinuate that the twin towers were brought down by our own govenment, well, she needs to move to somewhere where she can join the Taliban, she is a true traitor.......

    August 21, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  42. Norm

    The law-abiding, trustworthy, above-board, respectable, honest, “Truth Squad”: Bush, Cheny, Rumsfield, Ashcroft, Libby, Gonzales, Townsend, and Rove. What a wonderful group of individuals that all parents point to as a model for their kids.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  43. boboh

    funny how people think everyone lies except the one they want to believe.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  44. JB

    another bushco liar, and this one's actually EMPLOYED by CNN. so much for journalistic credibility.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  45. Hopeful Optimist

    The poster 'Alabama Brain Trust' who posted at 10:45 am uses a handle that's an oxymoron. No wonder he sides with the Bushies. There are no brains in Alabama. Simply hicks and people with the same DNA.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  46. Dennis

    Wake up conservative idiots and quit listening to these radio wackos as your Republican gospel.Could it possibly be that the Bush/Cheney admin. was more corrupt than the Nixon/Agnew one?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  47. Jason

    If Townsend, Ridge, Powell and others said there was no basis to raise the threat level, why did the White House push it through and make it happen? In this interview we're not given the basis for raising it so why shouldn't we think it was political? Just because Tom Ridge kept his mouth shut until now?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  48. Howard

    Who cares!!! The Bush administration is no longer with us. We should be spending our time cleaning up the mess that they left the country in. I think it is accepted fact that the Bush adminstration was the most corrupt, incompetent, and criminal administration ever. Let's never speak of them again and get to the work at hand. America get out there and help all the needy people that the Bush administration has created. You rich people accept 25$ a month tax increase to fund the health initiatives proposed by the Obama administration. The only way to wipe the bad taste of the Bush administration out of the mouth of America is to make this country better.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  49. Chris

    Of course political reasons for raising the threat level were not discussed in those meetings. Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, etc. were not morons. You don't have those discussions at a meeting where many people can corroborate your underhanded tactics. You lean on people beforehand behind closed doors so you can always deny that you did anything inappropriate. I am not saying that what Tom Ridge stated is true, but it could be, and Ms. Townsend really needs to acknowledge that possibility. If she doesn't, she is being naive about how government and politics really work.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  50. Jessica

    So, if they had said outright "let's raise the terror alert to help Bush win relection"

    that's the ONLY way she'd believe that those motivations existed?

    PLEASE – rational people everywhere are rolling their eyes at this mentally challenged woman.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  51. red

    All she keeps saying is that it was *never discussed*....Who out there believes that Ashcroft and Rumsfeld the Nazi would have come straight out and said "The election is coming up...raise the Terror Alert level"! OF COURSE no one ever *DISCUSSED* it....none of them would have wanted to anyone to quote them on when they were asked later – LIKE NOW – they could all DENY it!

    It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the suspicious TIMING innuendo...the IMPLIED message...Hint...Hint...but for God's sake don't say it out loud!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  52. Mark

    How disingenuous of Ms. Townsend – as well as the "fierce" questioning of her interviewer (who seems more like a "handler") – to state that politics was never discussed in regard to some claimed need for raising the threat level, and then to turn right around and accuse Mr. Ridge of the same thing on even less substantive basis. How stupid do they think the American people are?
    And because it wasn't brazenly thrown out in the meeting as a reason for raising the threat level, therefore it was never a Bush Administration consideration?
    It would be nice if CNN attempted to provide some legitimate analysis of the "news" it purports to present rather than additional apologetics from a failed regime for its false and failed policies.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  53. rick

    Doesn't take long for them to trot out another liar, does it?

    Imprison Bush and Cheney.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  54. EJ

    Was wondering when CNN would chum the water with another Bush-related story to get the radical left fired up.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  55. cmkc

    Of course CNN, make sure you get the "defense side" posted, aired and covered ASAP.......... it's not like you afforded the same coverage to those questioning the Bush Administration in 2003, is it?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  56. Scout

    She's lying through her teeth. It might take 10 years, but as this stuff continues to trickle out, even the Bush-lovers will have to admit that this was the most corrupt and dishonest Administration in the history of our country.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  57. Steve

    Re above:
    "Alabama Brain Trust" now there is an oxymoron....probably more accurate wtihout the "oxy" too!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  58. JayG

    I cant believe some of you one here slamming the Bush Administration for merely wanting to issue a raise in the threat level. How ungrateful some of you are. All of you people are so quick to agree that its being done for political purposes but overlook the obvious fact that Ridge is merely doing this for his own gain! Bush Administration raised levels for security purposes, Tom Ridge is doing this to sell books. How hypocrytical of him and for half the people on here to believe on side could be doing it for there own benefit and not even consider how Ridge may be using this story.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  59. pkb

    I always maintained that those Bin Laden tapes were fabrications. They came out at such opportune times. Can we really believe a man living in a cave could have looked so opulent and healthy and have such access to the media? I believe Bush knew it also. With the CIA and the government under control of such corrupt officials both here and abroad, anything was okay to keep Bush and these corrupt people in power. It's hard sometimes to believe we're talking about the U.S. and not some third world country where such things are common.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  60. Qing Jiang

    It is interesting that CNN hires Bush insiders as "contributor".

    August 21, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  61. Jim Wilkinson

    I do not doubt Ridge, but why wait till he can sell a book, why did he not speak up or resign at the time. I am tired of all these people coming clean to save their reputition and to make money. A real person of integerity would have resigned.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  62. StevenR

    What a self-serving load of CRAP. The politics were never mentioned but I bet they were the elephant in the room. The entire Cheney administration was self-serving and ALWAYS chose political considerations over what was best for the country.

    I would suggest that the invasion of Iraq and the federal prosecutor issues are more than enough to bring charges of TREASON against all senior members of the administration, without even bringing up these minor issues.

    I would LOVE to watch the evil Dick Cheney, the man who has ALWAYS put his own personal goals above those of the country and the rule of law (the real definition of FASCIST for you morons that only equate it to GERMAN NAZIS – fascism is actually ITALIAN), PUT TO DEATH for TREASON.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  63. Tim

    Anybody notice that since we've thrown the Republicans out of office that the terror alert stuff has gone away? Makes me wonder if any of it was ever legit.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  64. beny

    She is a Republicna lapdog. The alert level was used to gain votes. Ridge is right. Since Obama has been in office, I havent heard anything about these alert levels.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  65. Dave




    Nail on the head. This is nothing more than a publicity stunt by Ridge to get some free promo for his new book. This is a non-issue people...step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  66. Rick from PA

    Fran is still very much a "Bush Loyalist" and will continue to stick up for his administration. It is amazing to me how much one can have a "clouded vision" and unquestionable loyalty. In the end all of this is going to come out and then what is she going to say to support these hypocrits.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  67. Mark-Virginia

    Imagine-The RNC using scare tactics to win an election. Even if they did, you know they would NEVER try it again....oo wait. "death panels", "medicare taken away", "socialism" taking you guns away"
    Maybe they WOULD use scare tactics, since most people only listen to the first few lines of a story and wont search out the truth for themselves. Learn to swim or get out of the pool!

    August 21, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  68. Daniel R

    I don't believe Townsend, her vague parlance speaks volumes. Its obvious Ridge didn't discuss his suspicions with Townsend because she would use it as ammo against him. People who attend meetings know just because you don't discuss a particular objective doesn't mean that you can't try and steer a decision to that end.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  69. Tom

    Sounds like circling tof he wagons has begun by the youngish and talented Ms. Townshend. Only problem is that her arguments are not plausible. Just because Ridge didn't share his misgivings with her, a clear Bush loyalist with a presumed future, and he didn't make the most eloquent case in a room with highly skilled gov't officials doesn't refute his account. And Ridge's account is consistent with Scott McClellan's and others' alegations of politics trumping the facts in Bush administration policies. By fudging the facts in the runup to an unnecessary war and attempting to manipulate the billion dollar DHS' policies and public pronouncements, not to mention the harm done by mismanaging the financial health of the country, the Bush legacy will ultimately be looked back on as history's most harmful to the country.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  70. KenS

    Right! I recall Bush calling a press conference immediately before the DNC convention on the night of Kerry's nomination, where he preempted all of the major networks to announce ... that nothing had changed.

    Politics had nothing to do with Bush administration actions on security. Right. Anyone who believes that want to buy a bridge?

    August 21, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  71. Tommy

    And we are supposed to believe her over Ridge? Tom Ridge has proved to be one of the few from the Bush WH years that I actually believe is a good man, as opposed to the rest who I know see as either gullible such as Bush, pure evil such as Cheney, or in between such as Townsend.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  72. Mark

    So, if Tom Ridge says politics were involved in influencing the actions of the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, he's simply wrong. But if Frances Townsend says politics and personal ambition are what is fueling Tom Ridge, she's right. Really?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  73. Joe Dokes

    It's interesting to watch people like this covering their tracks. Also, it's funny how those terror alerts pretty much went away after the '04 election. Up till then, the alerts were shoved in our faces almost every day. The Bush administration was playing a game - scare Americans until they can't think rationally anymore. And it worked... for awhile.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  74. David

    Of course there was no overt political discussion in the meetings. And nothing in the quote from the book – “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?’” – contradicts anything that's said in this article. Ridge doesn't say that anyone in the meetings discussed politics, or assisting the Bush campaign. He simply says that he could see no legitimate reason for raising the thread level and thus the only reason he can see that Rumsfeld and Ashcroft would want to raise it would be for political gain.

    Makes sense to me.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  75. Lance

    Based on other Tom Ridge statements, this seems to be nothing more than him reiterating that his position is on the left side of the Republican party. Don't we all update our resumes occasionally?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  76. Reob Bergeren

    This is really a non issue. It's hard to conceive of an electoral process in which the candidates do not try to highlight their strongest sides. With the Bush administration it was counterterrorism and in all, what the book show is that Tom Ridge kept clean of abusing this issue. I'll also say that if: A. There's an election coming, B. There is a tape of Bin KLaden that has just appeared and C. We have been attacked before. Then all these considerations would justify raising the level of awareness to prevent further terror. Let it go, this is old news.....

    August 21, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  77. Darius

    Oh sure, everyone has it wrong on the Bush Jr presidency...the whole of America is an idiot melting pot!!! I can understand when 1 person cries foul, but when more than half of your administration cries foul, something is not right. First there was Richard Clarke, then Scooter Libby, then Tom Ridge, then the fat spokesperson whose name I forget, the list goes on................

    August 21, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  78. Carl in CT

    It's really amusing that they expect us to believe that politics wasn't involved just because it wasn't mentioned overtly... these people were grown-up Washington insiders who know which side their toast is buttered on.

    What really frosts me is how dumb they think we are... but given how many people buy their crap, maybe they're right!

    August 21, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  79. Just let it go

    Hey look, liberals are still obsessed with Bush.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  80. Bubba

    Pretty ingenuous; of COURSE good old president Bush, who never ever told lies, didn't REALLY want a big alert on the eve of his terrorism-powered election. He wanted to win fairly, heh heh heh.
    Good old Bush. We'll NEVER FORGET HIM.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  81. Thomas

    People are still trying to cover the previous administration's tracks.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  82. mk

    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.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  83. Mary

    Mr. Ridge supposedly states politics never played a role in HIS decisions re: the threat alert system, that pressure was possibly applied from above. I choose to believe him. If the Bush administration has proof that politics did not play a role, let them prove it. I think alot of people would like to see that proof. I know I would.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  84. Hannah Stevens

    I think Tom has it right. I have always wondered how those twin towers came down when the jet fuel had burned up hours ago and they collapsed in a neat demolition style heap. And building seven collapsed and it was not even hit? And the area was not treated as a crime scene, the debris was swept up in quick time, disposed of and some sent overseas before a thorough investigation could be done. I have always wondered. But bush was very successful in getting two wars, and elected a second time even though he was a dunce of a president.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  85. Jeff

    She says on one hand that politics weren't involved in the discussion but later says:

    "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."

    Seems pretty clear to me they were aware of the political side and it was discussed.

    War is peace. Good is bad. We are living in Orwell's worst nightmare. There is no real news anymore.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  86. E Dale Husted

    The Bush administration /Republican party was quick to use fear to get their way. Any one with common sense can see they are doing the same with health care reform. Republicans are americans and as a whole good people but they are condoning the lies and misinformation put out by the far right . Tom Ridge is a good man and the Bush people are circling their wagons.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  87. Jim in Florida

    She still drinks the "W" koolaide, what do you expect her to say?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  88. Katie

    Just because SHE doesn't believe politics played a role in Rumsfield and Ashcroft asking for the terror level to be raised, doesn't mean it wasn't their real motivation.

    Ridge NEVER said he was the only one against raising the threat level. In fact, he states quite clearly that he was NOT the only one.

    Ridge doesn't say they came right out and said "Let's up the threat level so Bush wins". And they probably didn't, which could easily make BOTH Ridge and whoever this lady is correct. They didn't say that outright, but that was possibly their motivation.

    I am from Erie, so I may not be completely unbiased, but I believe Ridge completely. He's never given me any reason to doubt him. UNLIKE MANY others in the Bush Administration.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  89. DMR

    The spinmasters from the GWB administration continue to be very active. When realities of their conduct become public it continues to be some form of "misunderstanding". Just like Karl Rove claiming non-involvement in the firing the various Federal District Attorneys, that were not politically correct to the Karl Rove standards. The GWB administration was very dangerous and it will take decades to erase the mess the damages they did. The compare themselves to Ronald Reagan, which is a huge mistake. President Reagan was an honorable man and respected the laws of this nation; the GWB administration continues to show they had nothing but contempt for the laws of this nation.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  90. Mike Ft Collins CO

    Another Bush loyalist trying to spin facts so that his administration doesn't look bad. I believe Ridge because he has nothing to gain from lying about what happened.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  91. Murray Rizberg

    So many times the words of the Bush administration have been proven false that we no longer can believe them innocent until proven guilty. In other words: because of the lengthy track record of lies from anyone & everyone who served in the Bush adminsitration, the burden of proof is on Ms. Townsend – not Mr. Ridge – in this instance. Why should anyone (with a brain, that is) believe anybody in the Bush adminsitration ever acted in the interests of anybody but his or herself?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  92. Marcy

    Of course she is going to say Ridge has it wrong. You think she would admit Bush or Cheney would actually lie to the American people about a security situation for political gains? It's not like they have never lied to the public before, right?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  93. Alabama Brain Trust




    August 21, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  94. leslie schwartz

    What a load of c###.

    The assertion that the Bush administration did not constantly use the threat of terrorism to enhance their political fortunes is ludicrous.

    I wonder who is still so poorly informed to believe that characterization, outside of die hard "W" supporters.

    CNN you need to get yourself some commentators with their minds rooted in reality. Lets this one go to Faux News where she belongs.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  95. Bill

    With all do respect to Ms. Townsend, I don't think there are many intelligent Americans who believe the treat levels weren't manipulated for political gain. Does anyone remember how the level would be raised during the campaign whenever there was bad news from Iraq or bad economic news? Ironically, we didn't hear much of elevated threat levels after Bush got re-elected, did we?

    August 21, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  96. Patrick Kelly

    Frances Townsend, just like Bush, Cheny, Rumsfield, Ashcroft and Rove cannot be belived...a soybean posses more credibility than these clowns.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  97. Ben

    No biggie here, sounds like normal healthy debates went on. The right decision was made at the end. I would expect the process to be like this. Just before a major election is a good time to look at data and discuss alert level. Are there political motives sometimes?, of course, but then debate and discussion should flush that out.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  98. Joshua Ludd

    I don't believe her for one second, and I doubt many others do, either. There is absolutely no doubt that the bush administration tried to use fear to get their way and to sway the public, and now we have confirmation of just one more way they went about, or at least tried to go about doing it.

    August 21, 2009 at 10:37 am |
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