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Thursday, July 08, 2004

What is the Point of Homeland Security Press Conferences?

I watched Tom Ridge on CNN telling us once again that Al Qaeda is planning to attack. Here's the link. He says they have no specifics about time, place or means of attack, and there's nothing specifically pointing to the conventions. If I had been a reporter there to take part in the questioning I would have asked this: what is the point of this press conference?

Ridge probably would respond with some general remark about how people should be aware of heightened risk, be ready to report suspicious activity, etc. But is that really necessary? People have their guard up plenty without Ridge, Ashcroft, Cheney et al going on TV to make announcements all the time. Pressers like this, if they become too commonplace, risk being ignored.

There are already plenty of people questioning the timing of the news conference, saying it's intended to distract from the Kerry-Edwards attention and benefit Bush. Without Ridge sharing any detail whatsoever, there's no way to verify what he's saying, so I can't evaluate whether this is legit or not. But it is a problem that so many people are more openly questioning the political motive here. Maybe if the administration hadn't hyped the hell out of the Iraq intelligence people would believe them.

Also, if you didn't see the conference on TV, you won't see this reflected much in news coverage, but Ridge spent most of his statement touting how the administration had made such great strides in information sharing, with the leadership of the president, blah blah. The secretary should get on with the threat information and spare us the campaign commercial.

MORE: This bit from Josh Marshall also points out the Republican efforts to engineer a "July Surprise" by putting pressure on the Pakistanis to capture big name terrorists during the Democratic convention later this month. You'd think they were politicizing the war on terror or something. Jeff Jarvis had similar thoughts while watching CNN.

UPDATE: Norbizness does some ridiculing and Fox posts a transcript of Ridge's remarks.