WASHINGTON (AP) – Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said yesterday he thought the current terrorism threat level would likely be lowered from the high-risk orange level, but wouldn’t say when.

“When it is lowered, and I’m confident it will be, then there will be an appropriate explanation at the time,” he said.

Ridge defended the Bush administration’s decision last week to increase the level to the second from the top on a color-coded scale of five, even though the government later determined that some of the information which led to the upgrading was likely fabricated.

“The decision to raise it to orange was not based on one or two sources,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Saturday that the end of the hajj – the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy Mecca – was causing officials to consider seriously lowering the threat level.

Ridge will present a “Ready Campaign” Wednesday encouraging the public to have a communication plan with their family, to prepare an emergency supply kit and to “stay alert on a day to day basis.”

“Terrorists give us a choice. We can either be afraid, or we can be ready,” said Ridge, speaking on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Ridge also said U.S. intelligence officials were evaluating a new tape, purportedly of Osama bin Laden saying American war plans against Iraq are part of a broader plot against Muslim nations.

There has been some information about a second bin Laden tape “swirling around within the intelligence community for the past couple of days,” he said. “Obviously we haven’t authenticated it, but again the message is consistent: The values of the West are anathema to these people. If you don’t believe, you’re an infidel.”

While the release of statements from bin Laden have foreshadowed past terrorist attacks, Ridge said he saw no “trigger” in the latest tape.

“But there is no rhyme or reason to when they attack,” Ridge said. “Ultimately they attack when they are ready.”

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