Only in America

Article excerpt

Byline: Arnaud de Borchgrave, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The son of a prostitute who was "tortured, beaten, brutalized and used," abandoned by his father when he was 2 years old, raised by a violent stepfather with a criminal past, Bernard Kerik began stealing and dropped out of high school.

Such was the upbringing of the secretary-designate for homeland security as he himself described it in his book "The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice."

What saved Mr. Kerik from a life of crime was a passion for the martial arts - a black belt at 18 - and Army life, first as a military policeman in Korea, later with the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he trained Special Forces personnel. But it didn't take him long to figure out where he could use his new skills for real money - security assignments for the House of Saud, the Saudi royal family.

Back in the United States with his Saudi-earned nest egg, he moved quickly up the rungs of the law enforcement ladder, first as a training officer for the Passaic County Sheriff's office, then as commander of the Sheriff's Emergency Response Team, and commander of its Special Weapons and Operations units, and finally warden of the Passaic County jail. He took a 50 percent pay cut to join New York's finest.

In the New York City Police Department, Mr. Kerik did undercover work for anticrime and narcotics units where his fearless performance earned him the sobriquet "Mayhem Magnet." He grew his hair down to the middle of his back, sported a big goatee and six diamond studs in one ear "with a gold loop at the bottom."

In his book, Mr. Kerik says, "I sort of looked like Charles Manson. My buy areas were Harlem, Spanish Harlem and Washington Heights, and it was probably one of the hardest and roughest jobs I've ever had. We seized more drugs, more cocaine than any cops in the history of the NYPD over a 21/2-year period - about 10 tons of cocaine and about $60 million in cash."

This record led to his selection for the U.S. Justice Department's New York Drug Enforcement Task Force. It was in this job he directed a major investigation that led to the conviction of some 60 members of Colombia's Cali cartel.

In 1991, Mr. Kerik went to work in one of the worst prisons in the country - Rikers Island in New York. "It was the most violent, the most overcrowded, the dirtiest . …