Chertoff: No politics in terror alert system

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff Thursday said politics was never a factor in determining whether the nation's color-coded terror-alert level should be raised.

"Politics never entered into raising the alert during my tenure in any way, shape or form," said Chertoff, who led DHS from 2005 until last January.

The issue of whether politics played a role in raising the alert level in the Bush administration came up in discussions about a forthcoming book by Tom Ridge, a former GOP lawmaker and Pennsylvania governor who served as the nation's first Homeland Security secretary.

Ridge wrote that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wanted to raise the alert level before the 2004 general elections. "There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, 'Is this about security or politics?'" Ridge wrote.

During interviews this week, Ridge has emphasized that he was only musing and that politics did not factor into raising the alert level.

Chertoff, taking part in a panel discussion, said the department under his tenure only raised the alert level twice, and both decisions were based on his recommendations and the merits.

Chertoff added that he still believes the alert system serves a purpose but could be improved. He said the government should examine whether there are too many levels and if there could be more clarity on what actions should be triggered at different levels.

"My own view is that the basic concept of a system like this has a great deal of merit," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.