Bush picks judge to head homeland security
Chertoff is 2nd pick after Kerik withdrew nomination
By NBC's Pete Williams and news agencies
Updated: 10:00 a.m. ET Jan. 11, 2005
WASHINGTON - President Bush will nominate federal
appeals court judge Michael Chertoff, a former federal
prosecutor who helped craft the early war on terror
strategy, to be the new secretary of Homeland
Security, officials told NBC on Tuesday.
The official announcement is scheduled for 10:00 a.m.
Chertoff is on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit. He was nominated to the seat in March
2003 by the president.
A Harvard law graduate, Chertoff previously headed the
Justice Department�s criminal division, where he
played a central role in the nation�s legal response
to the September eleventh attacks.
Before that he was in private practice and in 1994-96
served as the Senate Republicans� chief counsel for
the Clinton-era Whitewater investigation.
Chertoff, who still needs to be confirmed by the
Senate, was actually the president�s second pick for
the job. Former New York City police chief Bernard
Kerik withdrew as nominee last month, citing
immigration problems with a family housekeeper.
After failing to disclose the nanny problem during an
initial screening, Kerik acknowledged it during a
subsequent vetting phase as he filled out a clearance
Chertoff was one of the administration�s key figures
in the war on terror.
He took the lead in 2003 in successfully arguing the
government�s case in a potentially precedent-setting
appeal involving terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui,
the lone man charged as a conspirator in the Sept. 11
attacks and playing a significant role in development
of the U.S. Patriot Act to combat terrorist attacks.
As a federal prosecutor in New Jersey from 1990 to
1994, Chertoff oversaw high-profile prosecutions of
Jersey City Mayor Gerald McCann, New York chief judge
Sol Wachtler and the kidnappers and killers of Exxon
executive Sidney Reso.
He also worked in Trenton as special counsel to the
state Senate Judiciary Committee that investigated
racial profiling in New Jersey.
The choice of a new homeland security chief completes
a substantial makeover of the Bush team as the
president awaits his swearing-in Jan. 20 for a new
Donald Rumsfeld, John Snow and Norman Mineta have
remained as secretaries of defense, treasury and
transportation, but Bush has changed most other key
He turned to close associates Margaret Spellings and
Alberto Gonzales for the positions of secretary of
education and attorney general and chose his
first-term national security adviser, Condoleezza
Rice, to be secretary of state.
Congress has started the process of confirmation
hearings, and Gonzales appeared last week before the
Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats quizzed
him aggressively about his role in the writing of an
administrations policy paper interpreting what kinds
of interrogations of enemy combatants could be
permitted under a 1994 law banning torture.
Rice has her initial confirmation hearing on Jan. 18,
two days before Bush�s inauguration.
Ridge leaves behind a department that is still in
transition. Culled from 22 often-disparate federal
agencies, the 180,000-employee organization still
faces criticism over aspects of its massive government
merger, including matters from the coordination of
finances to computer systems.
In October 2001, Ridge became the nation�s first White
House homeland security adviser, leading a massive
undertaking to rethink all aspects of security within
the U.S. borders in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Congress later passed legislation establishing the
Homeland Security Department, with Ridge taking over
as the first secretary in January 2003.
NBC's Pete Williams is based in Washington. The
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.