President Bush Taps Federal Judge Chertoff to Head Homeland Security
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MARGARET WARNER: If confirmed by the Senate, Michael Chertoff would replace Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the homeland security agency created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. President Bush touted his new choice, currently an appeals court judge, at the White House this morning.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Mike has shown a deep commitment to the cause of justice and an unwavering determination to protect the American people. Mike has also been a key leader in the war on terror.
MARGARET WARNER: As head of the Justice Department’s criminal division after 9/11, Chertoff helped craft the administration’s legal anti-terror strategy, including the controversial Patriot Act. He also spearheaded prosecutions of corporate wrongdoing at Enron and Arthur Anderson.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: It will be my privilege to serve with the thousands of men and women who stand watch across the country and overseas, protecting our security and promoting our freedom.
MARGARET WARNER: The 51-year-old Chertoff graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1978, and clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. After a stint in private practice, he became an assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. He was named the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in 1990. After returning to private practice, Chertoff served as the Senate Republicans’ chief counsel in the Clinton-era Whitewater investigation.
When President Bush took office, Chertoff became Attorney General John Ashcroft’s criminal division chief. He was appointed a judge on the U.S. Court of appeals in Philadelphia in mid-2003. Today, the president said Chertoff’s experience and personal qualities made him an ideal choice to head the huge homeland security agency.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In the days after Sept. 11, Mike helped trace the terrorist attacks to the al-Qaida network. He understood immediately that the strategy in 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.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: I pledge to devote all my energy to promoting our homeland security and, as important, to preserving our fundamental liberties.
MARGARET WARNER: The president’s first choice for homeland security director, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, was forced to withdraw last month over his housekeeper’s immigration status. There were also questions about his extramarital affairs and ties to figures allegedly linked to organized crime.
Today, the president noted that the Senate has already confirmed Chertoff for three previous positions. And, indeed, Chertoff’s nomination was greeted warmly on Capitol Hill today, by many Republicans and some Democrats.