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2005-01-11-Chertoff-Homeland Security 

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


Judge Michael Chertoff nominated
 as Secretary of Homeland Security,  Jan. 11, 2005

President George W. Bush today (Tuesday, Jan.11) nominated U.S. Appeals Court Judge Michael Chertoff to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, succeeding Tom Ridge. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would be the second  member of the Jewish community  to serve in a Cabinet-level position. Josh Bolten became Office of Management and Budget director in 2003.

Before his appointment to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Delaware, New Jersey,  Pennsylvania and the U.S. Virgin Islands—Chertoff served as head of the criminal division in the  Department of Justice under Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Bush, making the announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, described Chertoff as "a key leader in the war on terror."

Michael Chertoff accepts President Bush's nomination as
Secretary of Homeland Security in this photo taken from
the White House web site

The President continued: 

"In the days after September the 11th, Mike helped trace the terrorist  attacks to the al Qaeda network. He understood immediately that the strategy on the war on terror  is to prevent attacks before they occur. His energy and intellect put him at the center of many vital Homeland Security improvements, especially increased information sharing within the FBI and 
with state and local officials. 

"He's faced countless challenging decisions and has helped to protect his fellow Americans while 
protecting their civil liberties. I'm grateful that the Judge has agreed to bring his exceptional 
judgment and integrity to an urgent new responsibility. I'm confident that he will be a strong, 
effective leader for the Department of Homeland Security...

"...When Mike is confirmed by the Senate, the Department of Homeland Security will be led by a 
practical organizer, a skilled manager, and a brilliant thinker. As head of the Criminal Division, 
and as a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, Mike built an impressive record of cutting through red tape  and moving organizations into action. He's worked cooperatively with the federal and state and  local law enforcement officials. He will always be a friend to America's first responders. 

"Mike is a strong and decent man. As an attorney, he has prosecuted organized crime and corporate  fraud. He stood against racial profiling. He's worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to  represent poor inmates on death row. He's earned the respect of lawyers of many backgrounds, and of  politicians on both sides of the aisle. This is the third time I've asked Mike to serve our nation, and I'm grateful he's agreed. I'm also grateful to Meryl, Mike's wife, and his family. I urge the  Senate to promptly confirm this outstanding nominee as America's second Secretary of Homeland  Security."

Responding to the nomination, Chertoff said he will be proud "to stand again with the men and women who form our front line against terror. Their job is law enforcement, and much more. They secure our ports and our airways, our borders and our buildings, our computers and our public utilities. They respond to natural and manmade disasters in our hours of greatest need. 

"Secretary Tom Ridge has preformed magnificently in launching this new department. He leaves some very big shoes to fill. I join the whole country in expressing gratitude to him for his service. 

"To Meryl and my children, I say, thank you for your love, for your support, and for your 
sacrifices, which have allowed me to shoulder the responsibilities of public service. Mr. 
President, I thank you for your leadership in protecting all of our families and our way of life. I 
appreciate the trust you have placed in me. If confirmed, I pledge to devote all my energy to 
promoting our homeland security, and as important, to preserving our fundamental liberties."

Among the first to react to the appointment was Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington.

“We are pleased that the President has found an outstanding nominee to head the Homeland Security Department,” he said. “Michael Chertoff has the talent and experience to take on this vital role in protecting the security of our country and its citizens.”

Brooks noted, “Under President Bush’s leadership, we have become a much stronger, more secure nation since 9/11. But the work of reforming old government systems and developing new ways to meet the challenges of the war on terrorism goes on. Michael Chertoff is an excellent choice to move those efforts forward effectively.”

“We look forward to swift confirmation of his nomination.”

The nomination of Chertoff, who maintains his judicial offices in Newark, N.J., also was lauded promptly by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

"Michael Chertoff has a history of anti-terrorism experience that makes him an excellent fit for the Department of Homeland Security," Lautenberg said. "Michael Chertoff's nomination is good news for America but particularly good news for our region. Michael Chertoff knows that the most at-risk two miles for terrorism in the country are between the Port of Newark and Newark-Liberty International Airport.

"On 9-11, New Jersey and New York suffered a terrible loss of life, and Michael Chertoff understands where the threats lie. I am confident that Secretary Chertoff will make sure that New Jersey receives the resources necessary to keep our residents safe." 

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn) issued a guarded statement, emphasizing that before the Senate confirms Chertoff hearings will be held by his committee.

"I welcome the President’s nomination of Michael Chertoff to fill the important post of Homeland Security Secretary," Lieberman said. "Judge Chertoff is a respected lawyer and law enforcer, and I look forward to reviewing his record in detail as the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee carries out its obligations."

Lieberman's statement added:

Outgoing Secretary Tom Ridge oversaw the very difficult consolidation of two dozen programs and agencies into a single department. Judge Chertoff, if confirmed, will face significant challenges to improve the Department’s operations and set clear security policies to safeguard the American public from future terrorist attack.

The Department is still struggling to integrate its many component parts into a well-organized machine. It has not yet articulated a clear homeland security strategy. And it is behind in its work to catalog and assess threats to the nation’s core energy, telecommunications, water, transportation, and financial networks. High turnover and scarce resources are partially to blame. But, ultimately, the Department will succeed only with muscular leadership from the top.

I look forward to the Committee's confirmation hearings and to working with the confirmed nominee to keep America safe.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Committee on Homeland Security issued a release, that said in part:

First responders in Los Angeles tell me that Judge Chertoff will be a capable replacement for Tom Ridge. Homeland security continues to be the most important challenge facing our country, and I look forward to meeting the nominee in the coming days and learning more about him.

The job of the new secretary will be difficult. His department has not yet achieved critical benchmarks that were the reasons for its creation: one integrated threat and vulnerability assessment, with a database of critical infrastructure sites; a threat-based funding formula; an effective national system for interoperable communications; and a revamped threat warning system to replace the broken color-coded approach.

My choice for this position had been a first responder with experience on the front lines, but Judge Chertoff does appear to have a strong law enforcement background.

No doubt, Judge Chertoff's confirmation hearing, to be ably led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), will also explore his commitment to protecting the civil liberties of law abiding Americans and visitors.

I look forward to working with the new secretary to create a safer yet free America.

Donald H. Harrison