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RUSH: Let’s now join Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security. Boy, you got to be busy today, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for some time for us.

RIDGE: Well, Rush, nice to have a chance to talk with you and talk with your audience.

RUSH: Well, tell us about this. We’ve heard what you said yesterday, a little bit this morning. You’re making this sound like the threat level is as serious as it’s been since 9-11. What about that, why is that, what can people do, what are you urging people to do in this instance?

RIDGE: I think it’s the collective opinion that this is the strongest and most credible body of reporting we’ve had since 9-11. It’s not just the volume, the number of threats, Rush, it has to do with the credibility of some of the people that are involved in the reporting and we have a procedure where we get the intelligence community and the president’s homeland security advisory council and make a collective assessment as to whether we ought to take it up. We did. And, frankly, the announcement yesterday was just an alert to America that we’re going up, we think we’re at a higher level of risk but it was really an announcement and a direction to governors and mayors and the private sector. We already have in place specific plans for action for enhanced security, more protection, basically directing the people who know what to do to start doing it. So we are 24/7 working with other departments in the federal government, but also with our partners in the state and local government and the private sector as well.

RUSH: What can you tell us about why this is happening? I’m talking about the increased al-Qaeda threat level, not with the decision you made, but why is al-Qaeda doing what it’s doing? Have to do with this is Christmastime in America, have to do with they want to show their people around the world they’re still active and capable of an attack, does it have to do with Saddam and Gaddafi, what’s it have to do with, do you think?

RIDGE: Well, some of this speculation. I think we have seen in the past, Rush, over the holidays, remember they tried to get the millennium bomber in through Seattle, who had to go to LAX airport. Richard Reid was traveling across the Atlantic during the holidays, so they know that this is a time of year within the United States we have several religious and cultural celebrations, so I think that could be part of their thinking, and I guess the concern that we’ve had is that our job is to raise that level and to get people on guard and put them on notice and regardless of the time of year, it just so happens that all this threat reporting that we deem credible coincides with this time of the year.

RUSH: Well, this has got to be tough for you. I’m trying to put myself in your shoes. You announce this because it’s warranted, and at the same time you assure people that as much of a protective apparatus as possible is in place, and then you encourage people to go ahead and continue living their lives normally. Some people are going to hear that and say, wait a minute, I’m maybe going to be afraid to go to places where there are large congregations of people which at this time of year would include shopping malls and shopping centers. What should the average, ordinary American who’s hearing this, how should he react to it? What can he do? The threat level is up. What can he do to help protect him or herself?

RIDGE: First of all just the fact that we are better informed and keeping America informed I think is very helpful. The president said many, many times we’re not going to let these people threaten us or undermine our quality of life or our way of life so I think one of the best responses that an individual citizen or family can generate is be vigilant, and from time to time we get reports that the law enforcement community follows up on, suspicious packages or vehicles or unusual conduct. We’ve encouraged people for the past several months just to make sure you have your own communication plan and your own ready kit and then go about the business of being a parent, being a worker, being a member of a community or church or synagogue, just go about being American, and then let the security professionals who know what to do and they know precisely what to do when we raise the level alert, go about adding layers of security to your community and to your country.
Every day, Rush, not every day but there probably hasn’t been a major metropolitan area that hasn’t been mentioned in some form or another over the past couple of years, New York City, Washington, D.C., come to mind but there will be Chicago, Los Angeles, and then we always pick up, not always but occasionally, we pick up charter of the cultural icons that they detest, the worst of western culture and Hollywood or Las Vegas, these are targets, and have been, always will be. They always come up in some of this reporting, but every single day, since September 11th, we’ve become a better prepared and more secure country and every single day since we’ve had this department up and running, when we get information that is appropriate to share, we share it. We’re not going to broadcast what we’re doing, but I just assure you, Rush, and your listeners, there are literally thousands and thousands of people today doing more things to enhance security than they were doing prior to 1:30 yesterday afternoon.

RUSH: Mr. Secretary, literally have 20 seconds here. How long do you think this threat level will exist as it is?

RIDGE: Rush, it’ll last until certainly through the holidays and beyond, and beyond is anyone’s guess. When we have the same collective decision within the intelligence community that we can reduce the threat level and, therefore, reduce our security, we’ll bring it back down.

RUSH: Thank you. Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. We appreciate your time. This is a bit of information we wanted to make sure that you all had, ladies and gentlemen, as we start out the big Christmas week in America.

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