Former Bush official says he was asked to raise threat level before 2004 polls

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Washington, Aug.21 (ANI): The first secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, has asserted in a new book that he was pressured by top advisers to President George W. Bush to raise the national threat level just before the 2004 election in what he suspected was an effort to influence the vote.

Ridge said Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pushed him to elevate the public threat posture but he refused.

According to the New York Times, Ridge now calls it a "dramatic and inconceivable" event that "proved most troublesome" and reinforced his decision to resign.

The provocative allegation provides fresh ammunition for critics who have accused the Bush administration of politicizing national security.

Keith M. Urbahn, a spokesman for Rumsfeld, said the defense secretary supported letting the public know if intelligence agencies believed there was a greater threat, and pointed to a variety of chilling Qaeda warnings in those days, including one tape vowing that "the streets of America will run red with blood."

Ashcroft could not be reached for comment. But Mark Corallo, who was his spokesman at the Justice Department, dismissed Ridge's account.

"Didn't happen," he said. "Now, would be a good time for Mr. Ridge to use his emergency duct tape."

Ridge's book, called "The Test of Our Times" and due out September 1 from Thomas Dunne Books, is the latest by a Bush adviser to disclose internal disagreements and establish distance from an unpopular administration.

In the book, Ridge complains that he was never invited to National Security Council meetings, that Rumsfeld would rarely meet with him and that the White House pressured him to include a justification for the Iraq war in a speech. (ANI)

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