Fran Townsend, Bush’s Homeland Security adviser and CNN contributor, appeared on the network again this morning to refute Tom Ridge’s new claim that he was pushed to raise the terror alert on Election Eve 2004 for political reasons.
She repeated much of what she said on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer last night – namely, that “there was no discussion of politics whatsoever,” but she added some new contradictory information about “discussion on the margins.”
“The only discussions I recall were on the margin – there was concern that if the intelligence supported raising the threat level, it might actually [be] to the detriment of President Bush because people might perceive it as being political,” said Townsend.
Here’s the video:
According to Townsend, that debate primarily took place between John McLaughlin, then-acting director of the CIA, and John Brennan, Bush’s head of the national counterterrorism center and Obama’s current homeland security adviser.
Townsend also said that she agreed with Ridge at the time that there was no basis to raise the threat level, but she chaired the meeting because “we knew there were others who wanted to, so we wanted to have that conversation.”
“What [Ridge’s] book doesn’t say is the most eloquent case for not raising the threat level was made by Secretary of State Colin Powell, not by Tom. And Bob Mueller, at great personal risk – remember, his boss John Ashcroft was advocating to raise it – Bob Mueller himself made an eloquent case not to raise it,” she said.
The threat advisory system is currently under review by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – and Townsend herself is part of that process. Napolitano appointed Townsend and former FBI and CIA director Judge William Webster to co-chair the review task force. Townsend told CNN how she invited Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff to give their opinions on it to the panel.
“This was two weeks ago, and Tom Ridge never mentioned any concerns – and he had some concerns – about politicization of the threat advisory system. You have to think this is personal, or publicity to sell more books.”
CNN said they reached out to Ridge for comment as well, but “he’s not doing any media right now.”