Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ridge, Pollsters Met During Bush Campaign

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge met privately with Republican pollsters twice in a 10-day span last spring as he embarked on more than a dozen trips to presidential battleground states.

Ridge's get-togethers with Republican strategists Frank Luntz and Bill McInturff during a period the secretary was saying his agency was playing no role in Bush's re-election campaign were revealed in daily appointment calendars obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

"We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security," Ridge told reporters during the election season.

His aides resisted releasing the calendars for over a year, finally providing them to the AP three days after Ridge left office this month....

Ridge's meetings with the pollsters occurred just before the first of 16 trips, from late May to late October, to 10 states important to the president's re-election campaign. During the same period, Ridge made 20 appearances in nine uncontested states....

--AP/Yahoo News

According to the story, Ridge met with Luntz on May 17, 2004, and with McInturff on May 26.

On May 27 there was this at MSNBC:

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said on NBC's "Today" show that there was some dissent over whether to raise the threat level from yellow, midpoint on the five-color scale, to orange.

"There's not a consensus within the administration that we need to raise the threat level," he said Wednesday. But later in the day, he echoed Ashcroft in saying all key officials are in agreement about the terrorist threat.

That was in connection with this:

Having warned the public of a gathering threat of another major terrorist attack, law enforcement agencies on Thursday were focusing on providing protection for a number of high-profile events in the coming months, beginning with Saturday's dedication of a new World War II Memorial in Washington.

A day after Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller warned that "credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al-Qaida plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months," security officials were facing an immediate test in the dedication of the new war memorial....

In another pre-emption effort, federal and local authorities will conduct interviews nationwide of people who could provide information about terrorist plans or seven suspected al-Qaida members identified Wednesday by Ashcroft as presenting a "clear and present danger." ...

In Wednesday's warning of the potential for a major terrorist attack this summer, Ashcroft said that "disturbing" intelligence, collected for months, augments al-Qaida's own declaration that its plans for a devastating follow-up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are 90 percent complete. Ashcroft said that could mean terrorists already are in the United States to execute the plan, though he acknowledged there is no new information indicating when, where or how an attack might happen.

Ashcroft and Mueller also announced creation of a new FBI task force to focus on the threat and appealed to all Americans to be extra vigilant about their surroundings, their neighbors and any suspicious activity....

One of the seven al-Qaeda suspects named at that time was Adam Gadahn, whom you may recall as a hippieish-looking ex-metalhead from Orange County. Five months later -- a week before the election -- Gadahn was ID'd as the speaker making threats on a purported al-Qaeda terror tape.

If one were paranoid, one might wonder whether there was something fishy about the appearance, at key points in the campaign, of an alleged terrorist who roughly matches the typical Limbaughnista's stereotype of a left-leaning youth. One might wonder if those responsible for crafting Bush's campaign "message" might want Gadahn to be part of that message. One might suspect that Gadahn didn't become a really big part of the message because Howard Dean, the candidate whose followers Gadahn most resembled in the Limbaughnista mind, failed to receive the Democratic nomination -- but one might also suspect that the Gadahn card was played anyway because, what the hell, when you're running against a Democrat, it never hurts to plant the thought that harmless-looking counterculturals could easily be insane terrorists.

That's what one might think if one were paranoid.

(Ridge story via Taegan Goddard.)

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