Chertoff picked to lead DHS

President Bush today named federal appeals court judge Michael Chertoff as his nominee to be the next Homeland Security Department secretary. Chertoff is a criminal lawyer who helped write the Bush administration's war on terror strategy to run the new department.

Chertoff would replace Tom Ridge, the first DHS secretary who headed the department as 22 agencies were merged into one in the biggest federal government reorganization in 50 years.

Chertoff has a lot of experience in criminal law and helped write the U.S. Patriot Act, which is being used in the fight against terrorism. His biggest challenges will be working with the technology being used to help identify and deter terrorists, and dealing with criticism that department officials have been slow to consolidate terrorist watch lists and deal with some of the most pressing problems it faces.

But Bush expressed full confidence in Chertoff. "Mike has shown a deep commitment to the cause of justice and an unwavering determination to protect the American people," Bush said. "Mike has also been a key leader in the war on terror."

Chertoff headed the Justice Department's criminal division from 2001 to 2003, where he played a central role in the nation's legal response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, before the president named him an appeals court judge in New Jersey.

He also was a federal prosecutor in New Jersey and the Senate Republicans' chief counsel for the Clinton-era Whitewater investigation.

Rep Bennie G. Thompson, (D-Miss.), ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Chertoff faces a tough challenge.

"Mr. Chertoff's nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security today comes at a time when our homeland remains insecure and not enough is being done to protect our country," Thompson said. "The border remains unprotected and buildings, bridges, and tunnels are vulnerable to attack. I look forward to working with Mr. Chertoff on making the right choices to get the job done."

Chertoff is Bush's second choice for the job. The first, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, took himself out of consideration following disclosures about questionable finances and business dealings as a private citizen and public servant.

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