U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge believes security crackdowns over the Christmas holidays, including the cancellation of some airline flights into the U.S., averted a terrorist attack. The Washington Post reports that Ridge said the volume of threat information from many separate sources mentioning the same cities and the same international flights was alarming and unprecedented. It led to the raising of the national threat alert level to orange, or “high risk,” for three weeks starting Dec. 21. “My gut tells me we did” avert an al Qaeda operation during that time, Ridge said yesterday.
He said there were “uncomfortable” moments during the alert. Ridge called Air France officials to insist they take some security precautions without informing French officials. “I created the tension over the holidays,” he said. He acknowledged that his call for foreign airlines entering U.S. airspace to deploy armed air marshals annoyed some foreign governments.
Ridge repeated his desire to use orange alerts only in the most dire cases. Recalling one four-month period last year when three orange alerts were raised, he said “that horrible period” left Americans “anxious and angry.” The business of canceling flights or basing national security options on unclear intelligence is a guessing game, at best, he said.