Tom RidgePosted 5 years ago under Government, Politics
The Republican and neoconservative Thomas “Tom” J. Ridge (born August 26, 1945) is most famous for being the first Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003. His long and winding career in the public and private sectors began when he completed his Juris Doctor degree at Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson School of Law in 1972, which was after he returned from serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. In just eight years, he became the assistant district attorney in Erie County, Pennsylvania and from there, he was elected into Congress, where he served for six terms. His career as a politician did not stop there – he soon became the Governor of Pennsylvania for two consecutive terms, winning the most votes for a Republican governor in their state.
During his time as governor, Ridge was known for his opposition of gay marriage and his support for the death penalty and abortion. Because of his pro-choice stance, and other political reasons, he stopped all the normal “checks and balances” inspection of abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, this allowed the infamous abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell to run his clinic, which soon turned into a house of horrors where a lot of patients and babies died.
Tom Ridge and his role as the director of the Office of Homeland Security
Following the tragedy of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Ridge was appointed by President George W. Bush as the first director of the newly created Office of Homeland Security. During his stint in this position, he established a color-coded terror threat advisory system. This terror alert system aimed to assess terrorist threats and effectively communicate them to the nation so that they can be properly addressed. However, many believe that these warnings are politically motivated.
According to David Martin, who was the national security respondent of CBS at that time, the flurry of terrorist warnings were released to divert the subject from the information that they had prior to September 11 tragedy to what went on after. This involves the revelation that President Bush received a briefing in August 6, 2001 entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US,” yet he failed to heed its warnings. The notion that the terrorist warnings were politically motivated was further supported by a retired CIA official who revealed that the Bush administration made a political decision to make all terrorist threats public, including those that have been identified as hoaxes.
Controversies behind the Department of Homeland Security
These criticisms didn’t stop the government, and in 2003, President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security and made Ridge its first Secretary. This department included the Coast Guard, Secret Service, Customs Service, and other anti-terrorism agencies, except for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The legislation that covers the creation of this Department was met with disapproval since it allows the White House and the various departments under it to hide information like emergency plans for major industrial sites from the public, making it difficult for people to identify dangerous practices in their communities. Moreover, it prohibits the release of criminal records to the public.
In February 2003, Ridge, along with former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, announced that they were raising the nationwide terrorist threat level to orange (high). They arrived at this decision based on information, which, according to them, has been “corroborated by multiple intelligence sources.” This alert was issued just a few days after Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations, where he accused Saddam Hussein of training terrorists to use chemical weapons. Homeland Security and the different anti-terrorism agencies came up with plans to capture the said terrorist. They also advised Americans to gather plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves from radiological or biological attacks. However, a few days after the warning was issued, it was revealed that the intelligence report was fake and that there was no reason to panic.
Another case of dubious orange-level terrorist warnings under Ridge’s time as the Secretary of Homeland Security occurred in the Memorial Day of 2003, which was the second consecutive year wherein the alert level was raised on this occasion. This warning followed the rising activity of terrorists abroad and intelligent reports claiming that there were planned attacks in the U.S. When asked regarding the nature of these attacks, Ridge stated that there were no “credible, specific information” regarding the targets or methods that will be used by the terrorists. However, he incited fear in the people by saying that “weapons of mass destruction, including those containing chemical, biological or radiological agents or materials, cannot be discounted.” These warnings were refuted by federal law enforcement sources who stated that the threats had doubtful credibility and that the real reason behind them is different from what the Department of Homeland Security claims.
Although there were many issues involving Homeland Security, Ridge continued to be the Secretary of this department until November 30, 2004. In his resignation, he stated that he left his position because it was time for him to prioritize personal and family matters. However, in his book “The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…and How We Can Be Safe Again,” he claimed that the real reason behind his resignation was due to an effort by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft to raise terror alert levels prior to the 2004 elections.
Tom Ridge’s life after his time as the Secretary of Homeland Security
After leaving his seat in public office, Ridge founded and became the Chairman of Ridge Global, a company which aims to provide solutions for problems regarding cyber security, international security, and risk management. He also became a board member of various companies, including The Home Depot, The Hershey Company, and Exelon Corporation.
Currently, Ridge is an advisory board member of NewsGuard. This project works as a “fact-checker” that evaluates a site’s credibility using a color-coded system, reminiscent of the terror threat-level warning system established by Ridge. Many people, however, are doubting the trustworthiness of this news rating algorithm since it is tied with people who have dubious intentions, including U.S. government officials and private companies like the Publicis Groupe.
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