Chertoff to Weigh Security, Liberties; Nominee Looks to Keep Balance

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Byline: Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Michael Chertoff told a Senate panel yesterday that he will walk the fine line between securing the country against terrorists and protecting Americans' civil liberties if confirmed as the nation's second homeland security chief.

"I believe that the secretary of homeland security will have to be mindful of the need to reconcile the imperatives of security with the preservation of liberty and privacy," Mr. Chertoff told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

"As an attorney representing indigent defendants, as a legislative counsel examining racial profiling and as a U.S. circuit court judge, I have committed to fostering liberty and privacy. If confirmed, I will draw on this background to promote measures that enhance our security while affirming our constitutional values."

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Chertoff said, the Justice Department "did everything we could to strike the right balance" between liberty and security. He added, however, that the manner in which some detainees were apprehended and treated was "regrettable."

All prisoners were charged with criminal or immigration violations, and some prisoners said they were abused or prevented from seeking legal advice.

Mr. Chertoff, an appeals court judge, faced tough questioning from some committee Democrats about the Justice Department's role in providing guidance on methods to interrogate terror suspects. He led the department's Criminal Division from 2001 to 2003.

The White House said Tuesday that Mr. Chertoff did not advise the CIA on torture techniques. The nominee said he had been asked his opinion as a prosecutor and had responded that if a technique "makes you nervous, you better make sure that you are doing the right thing."

"Torture is illegal," he added.

The 51-year-old New Jersey native was introduced to the panel by his home state Democratic Sens. …