Ridge: Intel Czar Not Needed 'Now'

Published July 22, 2004

| FoxNews.com

The following is a transcribed excerpt of FOX News Channel's interview with Tom Ridge shown on "Special Report With Brit Hume," July 21, 2004:

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX ANCHOR: How prepared are this summer’s political conventions to deal with any terror threat? And what about the report of the independent 9/11 Commission that comes out tomorrow.? Well, joining us now for an exclusive interview is Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Mr. Secretary, welcome. Thanks for coming in today.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Nice to be here. Thank you.

WALLACE: I understand that you have not been formally briefed yet by the 9/11 Commission. But from what you've heard and what you've read, what do you see in there that would make the country safer?

RIDGE: Well, first of all, I think they ought to be commended for their hard work and I consider a very important contribution to the debate as to what we should do to avoid another 9/11 incident. They made some very serious recommendations and the president will take them. In that vein, Congress has been looking at it as well. There are several ideas floating around there. But the president has really laid out some principles that once we take a look at the full report, the congressional recommendations, then we’ll have to get together and see if they won’t make sense.

But the president has said we need to dramatically improve the quantity and the quality of our human Intelligence gathering capability, it’s the best idea to advance that. We need to spend more money on technology to improve our surveillance and our detection and information. And finally, he said, we need to do a better job of coordinating all of the information we get from the multiple agencies. And to that end, under his direction, with his support, we are now consolidating the data bases. We’ve got a lot of names, people who are terror -- supporting terrorists, not only in this country but around the world. That’s being done by the terrorist screening center.

And we need one venue where a group of analysts can have access to all of the information that’s being generated by all of these intelligence-gathering groups, domestic and international. He’s done that with the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. So again, their recommendations are part of – I think of a myriad recommendations. We'll take look at them seriously and see what among those will help us improve our collection capability and our ability to prevent the next terrorist attack.

WALLACE: You talk about coordination. The hot topic in Washington, I don't have to tell you these days, is this idea of creation of an intelligence czar that would oversee all 15 intelligence agencies.

You've been watching to see how intelligence works for the last few years, good idea or not?

RIDGE: I don't think it’s needed right now. I mean, I haven’t seen the report and we have to see what Congress does. But the idea is to improve our human intelligence capability and invest more in technology. And that’s the principle the president has said.

But what we really needed was a single place where a group of analysts had access to everybody’s information. Information sharing is the key.

Somebody has to be able to take a look at what the NSA is doing, what the DOD has, what the CIA has, FBI has, what the Department of Homeland Security has generated. And the president has created out of it the Terrorist Threat Integration Center.

So I don't think you need a czar. We already had one level of bureaucracy that we don't need. We don't need more bureaucracy, we need more analysts, we need more Arabic-speaking analysts and we need a lot more human intelligence.

WALLACE: According to "The Washington Post," the commission will list 10 missed opportunities by both the Bush and the Clinton administrations that could have possibly derailed 9/11. Do you think it’s fair to say that 9/11 could or should have been prevented?

RIDGE: Based on everything that I’ve learned and everything I know and everything that I can even speculate about. I think, number one, it’s always easier to put together a complex puzzle if you have the full picture in front of you if you're trying to put the pieces together. And secondly, I still doubt based on everything I know that it could have been prevented.

WALLACE: So the answer is no?

RIDGE: I don't think so.

WALLACE: Let’s change the subject. What is your latest information about the terror threat to the Democratic Convention next week in Boston?

RIDGE: There are no specific threats related to either convention, clearly we're at a period of heightened concern because of some of the information we picked up about the interests of al Qaeda to disrupt the democratic process. We can construe that to be in the election year. But there are no targeted threats at either convention.

I was just in Boston last week reviewing with not only the federal agencies but the extraordinary state and local input that has generated a very comprehensive security and safety package to make sure the conventioneers have a good time, and this wonderful process of self-government proceeds as scheduled.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on that, Mr. Secretary, because you, a couple of weeks ago, made some statement about having credible reporting about an effort to disrupt the electoral process between now and November. But you're saying that you have no specific threat, information, against the Democrats in Boston?

RIDGE: Directed at either convention, that’s correct. The credible sources speak about the disruption of the democratic process. It can be very appropriately construed as during it in the election year, but there are no specific threats targeted toward either convention.

WALLACE: You were in Boston, as you mentioned, a few days ago. How do you rate the state of readiness there to prevent any terror attack?

RIDGE: I think it’s an unprecedented level of support and coordination, technology, and people at any national convention. I mean certainly the federal agencies have a role that I was particularly impressed with the coordination and the role of the state police and the local police dealing with the transportation and security issues.

And they've been working on this for over a year. It will be a couple thousand federal employees involved. We're going use thousands of state and local law enforcement, security perks as well . There will be people. There will be technology people see. There will be unseen technology. There will be uniformed police. There will be un-uniformed police. They've got there -- they've got a very solid, very, very strong package for safety and security.

WALLACE: We want to thank you very much for coming in and giving us that report. And as one of the thousands of delegates and reporters who is going to be going to Boston, we’re happy to hear the good news. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

RIDGE: Thank you very much, Chris.

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