This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", May 18, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge. Tomorrow he'll testify before the 9/11 commission (search), but earlier today in an exclusive interview, he gave me a sneak preview of his testimony.
HANNITY: So, you're coming up to New York tomorrow, and you're going to testify before the 9/11 commission. What exactly is it you're going to be saying?
TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, first of all, with thanks to the 9/11 commission, reminding us that there are some lessons as of 9/11 that we need to apply in the future, both good and bad.
And basically I want to tell them that within the Department of Homeland Security day to day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we try to get smarter and better prepared to prevent another attack like that which occurred on September 11.
HANNITY: Yes. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned. There's no doubt about it. One of the concerns I've had and many people have had is that this commission has been politicized in a lot of different ways, No. 1, by giving somebody like Richard Clarke (search) as much as credence and credit as he has gotten and praise from people like Bob Kerrey (search).
Does that concern you, that politics is creeping in here?
RIDGE: Well, I think there are people on both sides of the aisle that have an opinion of that.
Fortunately for me, I get an opportunity to talk prospectively about how different America is, how different the federal government is in a post-9/11 world. I get a chance to talk about some changes we've made integrating people and technology to make the country far safer and better prepared.
We have a lot of work to do, but I hope to highlight some of the things that are significantly different today than they were on September 10, 2001.
HANNITY: In the case of Richard Clarke, he specifically said about the administration that we ignored the threat of terrorism and al Qaeda. We ignored it for months, specifically.
He said when he talked to Condoleezza Rice, that she didn't appear to know who al Qaeda was, although I found an interview from a radio affiliate of mine in Detroit that proved just the opposite.
But yet we found the information here on Fox, he was praising the administration but two short years ago. Why should somebody like that testify when they have real credibility problems, when they are directly contradicting themselves like this and in the process of selling a book?
RIDGE: Well, I think the timing of the book and the appearance before the commission may have been coincidental, may have been by design, but I do think because of his presence in the White House over several administrations, he was a witness that should have been called, particularly in light of his work as a counterterrorism expert within the Clinton administration.
Having said that, agreeing or disagreeing with him, obviously, I disagreed with a lot of the conclusions that he reached, but I think the commission would appropriately take a look back at somebody who had been in charge of that.
A lot of people think more could have been done prior to September 11 in the previous administration, and we'll continue to comment about that for as long as you and I live and discuss the tragedy associated with September 11.
HANNITY: We have some very big challenges facing us as a country as it relates to national security. The Republican conventions are coming in New York late this August. We even have the potential of the Olympics coming to New York in a few years.
We saw what happened in Spain -- terrorists trying to influence elections. Do you anticipate that at some of these very high-profile events that we are particularly vulnerable?
RIDGE: Because we believe that we might be vulnerable around these high-profile events, we do take added precaution, added preventive measures around both conventions.
Obviously in a post-Madrid environment, we believe that al Qaeda thinks they influenced the outcome of an election. We have quite a few high-profile public and symbolic events throughout the balance of the year, and around some of these we will be ramping up with even more protective measures to otherwise accommodate a public event.
Having said that, as well, on a day-to-day basis, Sean, we work very hard to use people and technology, regardless of the threat. We don't need an additional threat to get better prepared, but around the conventions and around the G-8 and several other very symbolic and important public events, you better believe we're going to have substantially more security than perhaps even the eye will witness.
HANNITY: It appears that in Spain that the terrorists were somewhat emboldened based on the vote. Do you think in their minds now that they're thinking that they have the ability to impact elections? Are they thinking that way? Because if they are, then I guess one has to assume that they would try to do it again.
RIDGE: I think we should prepare as if they've concluded that they influenced that outcome, and we should be prepared that they would even potentially accelerate if they had operational plans or they planned on doing something in America, doing it sometime before the election.
Now, one could publicly question whether America's response would be the same as the Spanish. I mean, there's part of me that says if another attack during this very important period of our Democratic process, the United States would probably respond in a different way, much more resolved, much more committed than perhaps the Spanish indicated after their attack.
But nonetheless, we are and will be better prepared at these high- profile events.
HANNITY: Let's talk about the real threats that we face as Americans together, and this transcends politics.
For example, I know most people, when I meet them, when I talk to them on the radio, when they send me e-mail here at Fox, they're concerned another 9/11 could happen again. They're concerned about the possibility of a tactical nuclear weapon going off in an American city. They're concerned about biological and chemical weapons being unleashed in a major metropolitan area.
How real are those threats?
RIDGE: Sean, I think that, from our perspective within the Department of Homeland Security, we view the possibility, the potential of a chemical or biological or radiological or nuclear event as something we have to deal with, that we have to prepare for.
That's why we have technology at our borders and our airports and our seaports. That's why we've deployed more people around the country. That's why we've made considerable investments in the technology of detection and protection.
I think given the vast array of possible attacks we have, as a country, a responsibility to ramp up and be as prepared as we possibly can be for all of them. And we do, every single day.
HANNITY: Well, I've -- I've read often that we know, we've identified but we cannot find, that there are, like in the case of 9/11, there are sleeper cells in this country right now. You could tell America that, in fact, there are people here with the intent of committing terrorist attacks, and we just can't find them?
RIDGE: We certainly operate under that assumption. We know people in this country that are sympathetic and may be involved in a supportive way. We don't have any particular intelligence that tells us today that there's an operational plan.
Sean, if we knew who, what, when, where, and how, we would interdict it and prevent it.
HANNITY: Right. I understand that. I believe that. But the fact that we think that they're here already is -- I don't know if people fully understand the nature of the threat, which is the purpose of my questioning.
HANNITY: Because I believe all these things are real. I believe the terror attacks that we see with regularity in Israel could potentially come to the United States. Is -- do you see -- foresee that as a possibility?
RIDGE: We are all very, very fortunate to live in probably the most open and diverse country in the entire world. And we've got a lot of borders, and we have several hundred million people that come across those borders every year.
And we have to be prepared for the possibility that others have crossed the border with evil intent, to cause and do us harm. And it's that supposition, it's that basis around which we operate every single day, to make better use of the people we have, the technology we have, and the resources.
As I said before, we have a vision that says -- that's really driven by the sights and the sounds of 9/11, and they're indelible in the minds of America. And we live our vision within the department every day to preserve those freedoms, protect America, and secure our homeland.
HANNITY: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
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