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Hannity

Ex-Homeland Security Sec'y Tom Ridge on Mumbai Attacks

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 11, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Nearly 150 people are dead, more than 400 injured tonight after explosions rocked rush hour trains in the Indian city of Mumbai. Authorities have launched a massive manhunt tonight looking for the terrorists who are responsible. This comes less than a week after authorities here in New York thwarted a terrorist plot to attack the PATH commuter train system in Manhattan.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And joining us now with more on today's developments, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge is back with us.

Mr. Secretary, welcome back. Are we talking here about global terrorism links there or do you think it's more of India's sectarian violence, sir?

TOM RIDGE, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, I think it's just another reminder that terrorism is truly a tactic. And the war of philosophical war, the religious war between Muslims and Hindu over Kashmir has been going on for 50 years. And regrettably, they chose a target that has economic implications and it guarantees them mass casualties. And they did it and have been doing it for the past 50 years.

HANNITY: You know, Mr. Secretary, we know that the 9/11 Commission members, Lee Hamilton, Tom Kean, we know the president, we know the treasury secretary, we know that all of them asked in this battle that we're engaged in the War on Terror, they all asked The New York Times not to disclose this financial program that had been effective for them as a tool on the War on Terror, but they decided to do it anyway.

We now know that a leak also contributed to the early release of the story about the PATH trains in New Jersey. How dangerous is this when the media seems to be working against the best interests of the American people?

RIDGE: Well, sometimes you do wonder the need to release specific details about the kind of investigation or the kind of process we're using to try to identify terrorists and pre-empt their actions before it occurs.

It's one thing to report, I think, and would not necessarily be news to the terrorists that we're looking for ways to identify them and certainly looking at financial transactions as one of those ways. But when you identify the source and the means to the end, I do think it creates problems for our investigators.

HANNITY: But, clearly, you would agree that, when the government of the United States has a program that's working in this ongoing war on terrorism, you know — look, I could be as partisan, Mr. Secretary, as anybody here, but this is about our culture. This is about our children, our grandchildren and their future. This is right and wrong to me.

RIDGE: Well, sometimes you wonder whether or not — and I've read some interesting articles about it — whether they take it upon themselves to decide what our foreign policy should be and what we should do to affect that policy. And, unfortunately, sometimes it affects in a negative way our ability to achieve the results we want, and that's greater safety and security for our country.

HANNITY: But I know some people in a poll said it was treasonous. I would describe it as repugnant, arrogant and immoral. What are the adjectives you would use?

RIDGE: Well, there are a lot of people that agree with you.

HANNITY: You would agree with that?

RIDGE: Well, I think there was no need, I think, to relate the specific circumstances. Again, reporting on the fact that there is an effort under way, a sustained effort with which we have many partners around the world to look at financial transactions in order to find a network that may be financing terrorist activity is one thing, but then to identify the source and the means of — and the process involved, I think wasn't necessarily designed to assist our war fighters in combating terrorism.

HANNITY: Let's talk about the latest missile threat with North Korea, Mr. Secretary, and the danger that this poses to the United States and the entire world.

And I want to put it in this context: We have Ahmadinejad in Iran, wants to wipe out Israel, and he restated that position again just this week. We have Kim Jong Il launching these missiles, defying the world community. And we have in the backdrop or the context of TIME magazine saying that cowboy diplomacy of George Bush is over.

What are your thoughts? I mean, I don't see that George Bush has changed his ways in any way.

RIDGE: No, I think the president throughout his presidency has adopted the same approach that the presidents that have preceded him. Obviously, you look to military force as a last resort and efforts to undertake both bilateral and multilateral action against our enemies and against these forces is something the president has done from the get-go.

When it comes to North Korea, this is a rogue regime that starved its own citizens, that signed a non-proliferation treaty, ignored it, ignored the entreaties of its neighbors in China, and Japan, and South Korea, the European Union, everybody else, and now has the audacity to say, "We'll come to the table if you lift economic sanctions."

I'm just hopeful that the Chinese can deal with their friendly neighbor in a way that brings them back to the table.

COLMES: Hey, Secretary Ridge, it's Alan Colmes. Thank you for doing our show.

RIDGE: Alan, sure.

COLMES: What happened to those different color charts we used to see with terror alerts? Whatever happened to those?

RIDGE: Well, I think the system has pretty well matured. You know, I told you guys a long time ago that every day that something did not occur gave us another day to embed more and more safety measures within our economy and around the country. And the threshold of raising that terror level is higher and higher every day because we have more and more security embedded into this country.

COLMES: It seems like we only saw those colors around election time, though. Since President Bush was re-elected, I don't recall seeing any of those charts.

RIDGE: Well, you know, I think I had this interview about this subject some time before, and I would dare say to you, Alan, that I doubt if any secretary, for a Republican or Democrat administration, would ever calculate the political — there would be no political calculation in the determination to raise the threat level or not.

That's purely a matter of safety and security, and I dare say again neither Republican or Democrat would abuse its authority or responsibility to do it any other way.

COLMES: Well, the Daily News had a headline, "Terror Plot," and I heard a lot of people criticize The Times, though the same people did not criticize the Daily News about PATH trains in New York or New Jersey and the possible desire to flood the tunnels. Would a color chart help? Would it help at that point to have an "elevated alert," none of which happened?

RIDGE: First of all, I think there was a different communications regarding the specific nature of the thought. Some directed it specifically to the Holland tunnel. Other sources said it was to the transportation system.

Generically, after Madrid, after London, after the reported '03 incident and the arrests in Miami, it's pretty clear that transportation systems remain a valued target. But the bottom line is, is that, since September 11th and after these other incidents, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have done a rather remarkable job of embedding more and more security measures, including personnel, and technology, and surveillance, into the transportation system.

COLMES: Given the ongoing threats...

RIDGE: You don't need to raise it.

COLMES: Given the ongoing threats, some of which Sean just mentioned and the continued threats against transportation systems, and the fear that a lot of people have, are we truly any safer, either globally or in the United States, than we were prior to September 11?

RIDGE: Clearly, we are. That doesn't mean that we are so safe that we can guarantee that there will be no attack on a mass transportation system.

But just since September 11, Congress has appropriated over $400 million to mass transit around this country. Cities have used some of their money from their urban action program, the urban security initiative program, and the homeland security grant program.

They've got more undercover police. They've got more uniformed police. They have additional surveillance.

Look, this is one of the most difficult venues for America to protect against, the suicide bomber, the means by which we saw them bring death and destruction in Madrid and London. But they have substantially ramped up security and are to be commended for it; they just can't let their guard down.

HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us. We appreciate your time.

RIDGE: Good being with both of you.

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