Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, under fire from former colleagues in the Bush administration for saying politics ruled terror threat levels during that administration’s time in the White House, is backpedaling and saying that’s not what he meant.
Ridge, in his first interview since allegations of manipulating threat levels for political gain surfaced last week, now says he didn’t mean to suggest such a thing.
"I’m not second-guessing my colleagues," Ridge told USA Today in an interview.
Ridge’s book, The Test of Our Times, comes out Tuesday and tells his story as head of the nation’s homeland security efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Ridge’s book portrays his fledgling department playing second fiddle to other Cabinet-level heavyweights. He says he was never invited to participate in National Security Council meetings, he was left out of the information loop by the FBI and his proposal to establish Homeland Security offices in major cities such as New Orleans were rejected.
His most explosive accusation: that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft pressed him to raise the national threat level after Osama bin Laden released a videotape criticizing President Bush shortly before Election Day 2004. Ridge writes he rejected raising the level because bin Laden had released nearly 20 such tapes since 9/11 and the latest contained nothing suggesting an imminent threat.