WASHINGTON (AP) – With the Senate set to approve the agency he’s expected to lead, President Bush’s homeland security adviser played down as “really nothing new” an alleged al-Qaida threat of attacks in New York and Washington yesterday.

Tom Ridge also said he doubted the Bush administration would create an agency separate from the FBI to gather domestic intelligence. Several senators said the White House should not pursue that idea without congressional input.

Ridge declined to discuss whether he wants to become secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. A senior administration official confirmed Sunday that Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor and close friend of Bush, is the president’s choice for the job.

Appearing on three morning talk shows yesterday, Ridge tried to minimize the alleged al-Qaida threat.

“We’re familiar with that piece of information. There are no new threats. There are the same old conditions,” Ridge told “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s just part of the continuing threat environment that we assess. It’s really nothing new.”

A correspondent for the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera told The Associated Press he received an unsigned, six-page document on Wednesday, a day after the station broadcast an audiotape believed made by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The United States and other governments blame bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network for the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, killing more than 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

While the correspondent says he is certain the statement came from al-Qaida’s leadership, Ridge said the administration was unsure of its source, but recognizes that the United States is a primary target.

“The war on terrorism has come to our shores. We have to deal with it,” he said.

Ridge said a recent visit he made to MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, was “very revealing,” but added that he thought it was unlikely the administration would create something similar. He and several senators noted that FBI Director Robert Mueller is working, under orders from Bush, to reorganize the FBI to improve domestic intelligence gathering.

Ridge said powers given to MI5 would be unacceptable under the Constitution.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a similar organization be developed in this country,” he said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

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