- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday the country’s 7-year-old, color-coded system for terrorism threats needs a review but should not be dismantled.

“I think it was very appropriate for Secretary [Janet] Napolitano to create a panel to review the threat-advisory system created while I was in the White House,” he said. “It was also designed so that each color — much like a traffic stop light — meant that security professionals were to adjust their security to a pre-arranged, defined level. … I believe some form is desirable so long as it conforms to those principles.”

Mr. Ridge’s comment were part of an online chat with Washington Times readers and reporters one day before the release of his book, “The Test for Our Times: America Under Siege … and How We Can Be Safe Again.”

Click here to read the transcript of Tom Ridge’s online chat.

Mr. Ridge, the agency’s first secretary, also said the system was designed at the request of state and local leaders as well as the private sector and to inform the public that a majority of the president’s Cabinet felt there had been an increase for the potential for attack.

The book details the agency’s early years and Mr. Ridge’s efforts to protect the U.S. following the 2001 terrorists attacks.

The book has sparked controversy since an Aug. 19 review stated Mr. Ridge was pressured to raise the terror-alert level the weekend before the 2004 election to improve President Bush’s chances for a second term. And many of the questions this week as Mr. Ridge makes his rounds on TV and radio promoting the book have focused on the issue.

Mr. Ridge, 64, publicly acknowledged Monday the intense, Cabinet-level discussion about politics and terrorism that look place, but the threat level was not raise.

Discussing his accomplishments, Mr. Ridge, a Republican and former Pennsylvania governor, said several times he was satisfied with his efforts to include state and local officials in his strategies and with establishing ties with other high-level federal officials while creating a new agency.

“I am very proud of the relationships we began to build with other departments in the federal government, the partnerships we built with our state and local colleagues as well as the private sector [and] the international relationships,” he said. “The ultimate measure of success is because of the work of the men and women in my department as well as those in the intelligence community and the military we were not attacked.”

Speculating on whether the U.S. is safer today than before 9/11, Mr. Ridge said only that the threat is ongoing.

“Our enemies are strategic actors who don’t set their watches or clocks according to a Western time schedules,” he said. “The threat is real, and complacency is a luxury we cannot afford.”

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