The Aug. 3 editorial "Security Alert" said that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge "stayed away from politics" in his announcement about terrorism threats. This is not true.

By not mentioning that the "new and unusually specific information" was three or four years old, he misled the public. He also included a mild, but still inappropriate, political plug for President Bush in what should have been a nonpartisan briefing.

While I also would not agree with what former Vermont governor Howard Dean said in the half of the quote from him that the editorial included, I would agree with him regarding the words that The Post left out:

The full quote from Mr. Dean was: "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 in it."

Mr. Ridge's news conference suggests this is true.

GREGORY STROUD

Urbana, Ill.

*

As a resident of Capitol Hill I share the outrage expressed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) about the unilateral and extreme security measures implemented by U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer.

These measures are based in large part on intelligence that is three years old and that involves threats aimed not at the Capitol, but at the World Bank ["Street Closing Irks D.C. Leaders," front page, Aug. 3].

Roadblocks do not make me feel safer. In the event of an attack in the downtown area, Independence and Constitution avenues would be closed by the Capitol Police, preventing Capitol Hill residents from returning to their homes quickly and impeding a swift evacuation of the city.

The actions taken by Chief Gainer exceed what is necessary for our safety and represent an infringement of the rights of Capitol Hill residents. There are ways other than fear and police checkpoints to ensure the security of our government and our neighborhoods.

EDWARD McMANUS

Washington

*

Several New Yorkers were skeptical of the recent terrorism alert regarding Manhattan and Washington financial institutions ["N.Y. Grapples With Terror Threat, Stiff Security," Aug. 2]. They said the alert might be a tactic in President Bush's reelection campaign. Now, with the revelations that the information is three or four years old [front page, Aug. 3], one has to wonder if the skeptics are on to something.

MICHAEL PROULX

Washington

*

Yesterday, The Post reported that the intelligence on al Qaeda plans for attacks on U.S. financial institutions was possibly three years old. The implication was that the information was old, and that it was unnecessary to advise the public of possible terrorist attacks.

But the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were planned in May 1998 in the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan -- more than three years before they were carried out. Just because the intelligence is old doesn't mean that an attack isn't still being planned.

D.E. MOSMAN

Richmond

*

President Bush is in a no-win situation on terrorism. If an attack takes place and buildings are destroyed or lives are lost, everyone will come down hard on him, and rightly so. However, if nothing happens, where is the praise?

If nothing happens, the naysayers proclaim there was no attack planned, that it was all made up and that it's all just politics. But we can't know what effect raising the threat level might have had, or whether publicizing the threats acted as a deterrent.

No one is ever praised for keeping us safe, and that's a shame. With so much negative publicity surrounding the president, it might be time for something positive. So let me just say: We raised the threat level to orange and, so far, nothing has happened. For another day, we went to work and we went home and we saw our families and our friends, and were thankful for another day without an act of terrorism.

Thank you, Mr. Bush.

MICHAEL BONGIOVI

Warrenton