- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Frances Fragos Townsend was appointed with little fanfare recently as President Bush’s homeland security adviser and made no public appearances until last week after the terror threat level was raised to “high” in parts of the country.

“I think this is the most specific intelligence regarding a terrorist attack in the homeland that we have ever seen,” Mrs. Townsend told Fox News during one of her first televised interviews Aug. 2.

Mrs. Townsend was appointed May 28 to replace Gen. John A. Gordon as Mr. Bush’s top adviser on homeland security matters. She previously served as an assistant to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Mrs. Townsend initially was pulled into the TV spotlight over policy changes proposed by the September 11 commission.

The homeland security adviser position was first held by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who was tapped to head the new Department of Homeland Security.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Mrs. Townsend said her job is to develop policy and advise the president, while Mr. Ridge’s job is to preside over the terror alert system and work with state and local authorities to put policy into action.

She said her job’s relationship to Mr. Ridge’s position is much like the relationship among Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Miss Rice.

“I am to homeland security what Condi Rice is to the national security community,” Mrs. Townsend said.

Asked whether she will be making more TV appearances, she said, “It really depends on the issue … and whether it’s appropriate for me to speak. We will see.”

Mrs. Townsend began her career as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn in 1985, and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in 1988.

Mrs. Townsend worked for the Justice Department for 13 years, serving in the Clinton administration as intelligence policy counsel for Attorney General Janet Reno. Critics have accused her of being a liberal, but Mrs. Townsend says she is a registered Republican and records show her only political contributions have been to Republicans. “My critics are wrong,” she said.

A former Justice Department colleague of Mrs. Townsend’s said she was a “chief implementer of rules” regarding communication and cooperation between the law enforcement and intelligence communities, rules later dubbed “the wall” by the September 11 commission.

“[Mrs. Townsend] was quite zealous in implementing those rules,” said one former colleague and Justice Department official. “Now she is trying to undo what has been so studiously implemented while she was in Justice.”

The “wall” was blamed in the report of the National Commission on Terror Attacks Upon the United States for the failure of U.S. officials to link Zacarias Moussaoui, a flight student in Phoenix, to al Qaeda — a connection that might have exposed the 2001 terrorist plot.

Mrs. Townsend said that policy was developed by Miss Reno, and that although she was responsible for its enforcement, “I thought the rules were restrictive, but I was not in a position at that time to have those policies changed.

“I am now a very strong advocate of the Patriot Act and the ability of law enforcement and intelligence to share information to put together a picture to defeat the bad guys,” Mrs. Townsend said.

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