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Kerry aide: Threat shows U.S. must do more

Dean suggests political motivation for terror alert

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Al Qaeda information gathering is chilling, say intelligence officials.

Tom Ridge raises the terror threat level for financial centers.
Do you agree with Howard Dean's suggestion that the latest terror alert may be politically motivated?
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
Howard Dean
Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An adviser to Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry says the government's decision to raise the terror alert level in three urban areas indicates the country is not as safe as it could be.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced Sunday that he had raised the alert level to orange, or high, for financial services sectors in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C.

Ridge said new intelligence pointed to five buildings as potential targets: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, Prudential Plaza in Newark, and the Citigroup Building and New York Stock Exchange in New York. (Full story)

Susan Rice, a senior Kerry adviser on national security affairs, said the heightened alert level "reminds us of the serious continuing threat we face, and that we are not as safe as we could or should be."

She said the Department of Homeland Security, which will brief Kerry on the information, notified Kerry's staff ahead of Ridge's announcement.

"No matter what threats we may face, the terrorists will not divide us. Our nation is united in its determination to defeat terrorism," Rice said, vowing that the Democratic ticket would be tough on terrorism.

"We have a message today for al Qaeda or any terrorist who may be thinking of attacking our country: John Kerry and John Edwards will bring all aspects of our nation's power to crush al Qaeda and destroy terrorist networks," she said.

Meanwhile, former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean suggested a political motivation for the terror alert -- an allegation denounced as "outrageous" by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, one of Dean's early rivals in the race for the Democratic nomination.

In an interview on CNN's "Late Edition," Dean said he was "concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism."

"His whole campaign is based on the notion that 'I can keep you safe, therefore, in times of difficulty in America, stick with me,' " Dean said.

"It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both."

Dean's comments generated sharp rebukes on the same program from Lieberman, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority whip.

"I think that's the most cynical view," McConnell said. "The president, after all, is the president, even if he's running for re-election.

"And I don't think the American people believe that George W. Bush, the man who's led us so effectively on the war on terror, would politicize something like this."

Lieberman said he thought McConnell was "absolutely right."

"I don't think anybody who has any fairness or is in their right mind would think the president or the secretary of homeland security would raise an alert level and scare people for political reasons," Lieberman said. "That's outrageous."

Dean rejected the idea that his comments amounted to politicizing the terror threat, insisting Bush had already done so.

"When you're going to run on inspiring fear in the American people, that's politics," he said.

"The president himself made the choice to inject politics into the campaign on terrorism. That was his choice. He's now going to have to live with the consequences."

A Bush administration official dismissed Dean's suggestion as a politically motivated attack, saying "we do not do politics at Homeland Security."

The Kerry campaign also sought to distance itself from Dean's comments, with another senior foreign policy adviser saying, "I don't think Dean has the facts."

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