By Mark Memmott

Though he writes in a new book that he once wondered "is this about security or politics?" when others in the Bush administration were arguing that the nation's "threat level" should be raised, former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge just told Talk of the Nation's Neal Conan that politics never played a role in determining where the level was set.

Ridge conceded that he did ask himself that question once in 2004, but he told Neal that in the end the system was set up so that politics could not be a factor. Here's part of their discussion:

Later during today's TOTN, Neal asked why -- if politics was never a part of the process -- the threat levels just for New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington were raised in the summer of 2004 and then lowered just days after the presidential election that year.

At first, Ridge insisted that Neal had the timing wrong -- that the threat level was reduced for those cities before the election. While Ridge was still on the phone with Neal, though, we found the copy of Homeland Security's announcement of that threat reduction. It was made on Nov. 10, 2004. That's one week after the election.

Ridge conceded his mistake, but added that it wouldn't have made much sense for the Bush team to think that changing the threat level in heavily Democratic places like New York, northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C., would change the election's outcome:

All of Neal's conversation with Ridge will be posted here later today. To find an NPR station that broadcasts TOTN, click here.

categories: National Intelligence

2:40 - September 1, 2009