Of all the points on Michael Chertoff's resume, the most
important for now may be that he appears confirmable. At George W.
Bush's announcement Tuesday nominating Judge Chertoff to become the
next secretary of Homeland Security, the president pointedly noted
that Chertoff has already been confirmed by the Senate three times
for previous posts.
In contrast with the colorful Bernard Kerik - Bush's first choice
for Homeland Security, who withdrew from consideration after
multiple ethical issues came to light - Chertoff brings to the table
long experience in Washington and in legal matters. Now a federal
appeals judge in New Jersey, Chertoff is a former federal prosecutor
who led the Department of Justice's criminal division from 2001 to
2003. After the 9/11 attacks, he played a key role in forming US
Chertoff's selection came as a surprise; many in Washington and
in the homeland security field see the management of the big new
bureaucracy as a central challenge, and Chertoff is not seen
foremost as a manager. The department, formed after 9/11, integrates
the operations of 22 preexisting agencies, and has been criticized
for moving slowly on enhancing protection of borders and ports and
generally integrating all its disparate parts.
"The next director has to grow the agency beyond the teething
stage," says Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center
and former deputy director of the National Intelligence Council.
To the American public, perhaps the most visible aspect of the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its color-coded terror
alert system - a post-9/11 creation designed to help first
responders, and Americans in general, maintain the appropriate level
of vigilance at a time of continuing terrorist threat. But the
system was quickly lampooned, and over time some have had a sense
that the alert system risked being dismissed as the government
crying wolf. Departing DHS secretary Tom Ridge himself has indicated
that the system needs to be rethought.
Chertoff brings to the job credentials as a law-and-order
conservative, having aggressively supported the birth of the Patriot
Act, which civil libertarians have been fighting since its
inception. But, say people who have worked with Chertoff from a
different political perspective, he's capable of working across the
"He's someone you can talk to who hears different viewpoints,"
says Juliette Kayyem, a homeland security expert at Harvard
University's Kennedy School who served on a terrorism task force
with Chertoff. …