President Bush on Tuesday announced the nomination of Judge Michael Chertoff as Homeland Security secretary in the White House Roosevelt Room (White House photo).
President Bush on Tuesday nominated federal appeals court Judge Michael Chertoff to be secretary of Homeland Security, replacing Tom Ridge. Chertoff was previously a federal prosecutor, and he headed the Justice Department's criminal division where he crafted the administration's legal strategy for the war on terror.
"Judge Chertoff's record clearly shows he was deeply involved in all the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "My hope is that he can separate the enormous detail he accumulated on the terrorists and their use of heavy transport-category aircraft from the general aviation fleet. Far too often over the past three years, all of aviation has been lumped together.
"Clearly, we hope Judge Chertoff will take the same due diligence he has done in the past by looking at general aviation's small aircraft fleet as a different category. We would hope that he would then come to the same conclusion as the Government Accountability Office, which after a year of study concluded that general aviation airports and aircraft are 'not a major security risk.'"
Nothing in Chertoff's résumé gives an indication of how he might view general aviation. In congressional testimony, he has defended the U.S. government actions against terrorists or anyone with suspected terrorist links. He also has strongly praised the Patriot Act.
"Mike has shown a deep commitment to the cause of justice, and an unwavering determination to protect the American people," President Bush said in announcing Chertoff's nomination. "Mike has also been a key leader in the war on terror.... 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."
Chertoff oversaw the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the drop-out flight school student accused of being the "twentieth hijacker." He argued the government's case against Moussaoui's request for access to other al Qaeda suspects to testify that he wasn't part of the September 11 plot. Allowing such access, Chertoff said, would create "immediate and irreparable harm" to U.S. security. While the appeals court said Moussaoui couldn't interview the suspects, it ordered the judge in the case to craft alternative versions of statements made by the witnesses to government interrogators, known as substitutions, to present to the jury. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The actual case against Moussaoui has yet to go to trial.
"[Chertoff has] faced countless challenging decisions and has helped to protect his fellow Americans while protecting their civil liberties," Bush said.
Chertoff, 51, sits on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles appeals from New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the Virgin Islands. He is an honors graduate of both Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He was a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and a federal prosecutor in New York and New Jersey. He also worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to represent poor inmates on death row. Chertoff was special counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee investigating the business dealings of President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"He's earned the respect of lawyers of many backgrounds, and of politicians on both sides of the aisle," Bush said.
The Senate has confirmed him on three different occasions, with the only vote against him coming from New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. She opposed his confirmation as a federal appeals judge. New York's other senator, Charles Schumer, today gave Chertoff a qualified endorsement, saying, "Judge Mike Chertoff has the résumé to be an excellent Homeland Security secretary, given his law enforcement background and understanding of New York's and America's neglected homeland security needs."
January 11, 2005