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Ashcroft Assailed on Terror Warning
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: National security; Terrorism
Author: John Mintz and Susan Schmidt
Date: May 28, 2004
Start Page: A.04
Section: A SECTION

Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and [Bush] administration rules, only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can publicly issue threat warnings, and they must be approved in a complex interagency process involving the White House. Administration officials sympathetic to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he was not informed [John D. Ashcroft] was going to characterize the threat in that way -- an assertion that Justice officials deny.

"Dissemination by our government of sensitive terrorism warnings must be closely coordinated across our intelligence and law enforcement communities," [Christopher Cox] said. "In the Homeland Security Act, DHS was assigned the central coordinating role in this process. The absence of Secretary Ridge from yesterday's news conference held by the attorney general and the FBI director, and the conflicting public messages their separate public appearances delivered to the nation, suggests that the broad and close interagency consultation we expect, and which the law requires, did not take place in this case.

While publicly professing only collegiality and cooperation, Ridge and Ashcroft have occasionally struggled for two years. They argued for months over whether Homeland Security agents should investigate terrorism financing, and last year Ridge agreed they could do it only under the FBI's lead.

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