Michael Chertoff

Michael Chertoff
Michael Chertoff
2nd Secretary of Homeland Security
In office
February 15, 2005 – January 21, 2009
President George W. Bush

Barack Obama

Preceded by Tom Ridge
Succeeded by Janet Napolitano
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In office
June 10, 2003[1] – February 15, 2005
Preceded by Morton I. Greenberg
Succeeded by Michael Chagares
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey
In office
Preceded by Samuel Alito, Jr.
Succeeded by Faith S. Hochberg
Personal details
Born November 28, 1953 (1953-11-28) (age 57)
Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Meryl Chertoff
Children Two
Alma mater Harvard College (A.B.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Occupation Attorney
Religion Judaism
From 1979-1980 he served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

Michael Chertoff (born November 28, 1953) was the second United States Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and co-author of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Michael Chertoff speaking at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy Conference

He previously served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, as a federal prosecutor, and as assistant U.S. Attorney General. He succeeded Tom Ridge as United States Secretary of Homeland Security on February 15, 2005.

Since leaving government service, Chertoff has worked as Senior Of Counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling.[2] He also co-founded the Chertoff Group, a risk management and security consulting company, which employs several senior officials from his time as Secretary of Homeland Security as well as Michael Hayden, a former Director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.[3]

Chertoff is a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. [4]


Early life

Chertoff was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey to Rabbi Gershon Baruch Chertoff (1915–1996), the former leader of the Congregation B'nai Israel in Elizabeth and Talmud scholar, and Livia Chertoff (née Eisen), El Al flight attendant. His paternal grandfather, Rabbi Paul Chertoff (emigrated with his parents from czarist Russia, present day Belarus) was a noted Talmud scholar.[5]

Chertoff went to the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth as well as the Pingry School. He later attended Harvard College, where he was a research assistant on John Hart Ely's book Democracy and Distrust, graduating in 1975 and then spending one year at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom. He then graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1978, going on to clerk for appellate judge Murray Gurfein for a year before clerking for United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan from 1979 to 1980. He worked in private practice with Latham & Watkins from 1980 to 1983 before being hired as a prosecutor by Rudolph Giuliani, then the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, working on Mafia and political corruption-related cases. In the mid 1990s, Chertoff returned to Latham & Watkins for a brief period, founding the firm's office in Newark, New Jersey.

Public service

In September 1986, together with U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Rudolph Giuliani, Chertoff was instrumental in the crackdown on organized crime in the Mafia Commission Trial.

In 1990, Chertoff was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.[6] Among his most important cases, in 1992 Chertoff put second-term Jersey City Mayor Gerald McCann in federal prison for over two years on charges of defrauding money from a savings and loan scam. Chertoff was asked to stay in his position when the Clinton administration took office in 1993, at the request of Democratic Senator Bill Bradley.[7] He was the only U.S. attorney not replaced and stayed with the U.S. Attorney's office until 1994, when he entered private practice, returning to Latham & Watkins as a partner.[7]

Despite his friendly relationship with some Democrats, Chertoff took an active role in the Whitewater investigation against Bill and Hillary Clinton, serving as the special counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee studying allegations against the Clintons.

In 2000, Chertoff worked as special counsel to the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee, investigating racial profiling in New Jersey. He also did some fundraising for George W. Bush[citation needed] and other Republicans[citation needed] during the 2000 election cycle and advised Bush's presidential campaign on criminal justice issues. From 2001 to 2003, he headed the criminal division of the Department of Justice, leading the prosecution's case against terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui.

Chertoff also led the prosecution's case against accounting firm Arthur Andersen for destroying documents relating to the Enron collapse. The prosecution of Arthur Andersen was controversial, as the firm was effectively dissolved, resulting in the loss of 26,000 jobs. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction and the case has not been retried. At the Department of Justice, he also came under fire as one of the chief architects of the Bush administration's legal strategies in the War on Terror,[citation needed] particularly regarding the detention of thousands of Middle Eastern immigrants.[citation needed]

On March 5, 2003, Chertoff was nominated by President Bush to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated by Morton I. Greenberg. Hillary Clinton (then a Senator from New York) cast the lone dissenting vote against Chertoff's confirmation. He was confirmed by the Senate 88-1 on June 9, 2003, and received his commission the following day. Mrs. Clinton explained that her vote was in protest of the way junior White House staffers were "very badly treated" by Chertoff's staff during the Whitewater investigation.[8]

Secretary of Homeland Security

In late 2004, Bernard Kerik was forced to decline President Bush's offer to replace Tom Ridge, the outgoing Secretary of Homeland Security. After a lengthy search to find a suitable replacement, Bush nominated Chertoff to the post in January 2005, citing his experience with post-9/11 terror legislation. He was unanimously approved for the position by the United States Senate on February 15, 2005.[9]

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, most of the criticism was directed toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but DHS was criticized as well for its lack of preparation.[10]

Chertoff was the Bush administration's point man for pushing the comprehensive immigration reform bill, a measure that stalled in the Senate in June 2007.[11]

Chertoff was asked by the Obama administration to stay in his post until 9 a.m. on January 21, 2009 (one day after President Obama's inauguration), "to ensure a smooth transition".[12]


Construction of border fence

In April 2008, Chertoff was criticized in a New York Times editorial for waiving the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental protection legislation to construct a 700-mile (1,100 km) fence along the Mexico–United States border. The Times wrote: "To the long list of things the Bush administration is willing to trash in its rush to appease immigration hard-liners, you can now add dozens of important environmental laws and hundreds of thousands of acres of fragile habitat on the southern border."[13]

According to New York Times columnist Adam Liptak, Chertoff had excluded the Department of Homeland Security from having to follow laws "protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom."[14]

A report issued by the Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan research division of the Library of Congress, said that the unchecked delegation of powers to Chertoff was unprecedented: "After a review of federal law, primarily through electronic database searches and consultations with various CRS experts, we were unable to locate a waiver provision identical to that of §102 of H.R. 418—i.e., a provision that contains 'notwithstanding' language, provides a secretary of an executive agency the authority to waive all laws such secretary determines necessary, and directs the secretary to waive such laws."[15]

Actions regarding illegal immigration

In September 2007, Chertoff told a House committee that the DHS would not tolerate interference by sanctuary cities that would block the "Basic Pilot Program", which requires some types of employers to validate the legal status of their workers.[16] He said that the DHS is exploring its legal options and intends to take action to prevent any interference with the law.[17]

In 2008 it became public that the housekeeping company Chertoff had hired to clean his house employed illegal immigrants.[18][19][20]


At the Global Creative Leadership Summit in 2009, Chertoff described globalization as a double-edged sword. Although globalization may help raise the standard of living for people around the world, Chertoff claims that it can also enable terrorists and transnational criminals.[21]

Body Scanners

Michael Chertoff has been an advocate of enhanced technologies, such as full body scanners, that reduce security vulnerabilities and enhance detection capabilities for those threats not easily detected by metal detectors.[22]


  1. ^ Biographical Directory of Federal Judges
  2. ^ Covington & Burling (2009). Michael Chertoff. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  3. ^ Chertoff Group Team
  4. ^ http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/index.php?en_advisoryboard
  5. ^ Marek, Angie C."A New Sheriff in Town", U.S. News & World Report, July 10, 2005. Accessed May 16, 2008. "A rabbi's son, he was born in blue-collar Elizabeth, N.J. Worshipers from Elizabeth's former Congregation Bnai Israel remember Chertoff's father, Gershon Chertoff, as a man with a vast collection of books and a keen interest in current events. Michael's grandfather Paul Chertoff, also a rabbi, was a professor of the Talmud, the collected writings that constitute Jewish civil and religious law."
  6. ^ U.S. Attorney's Office District of New Jersey, A Rich History of Service
  7. ^ a b "Chertoff called 'consummate professional'". MSNBC via Associated Press. 2005-01-11. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6813011. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  8. ^ Ratner, Lizzy (2005-01-16). "Hillary's Nemesis, Mean Mike Chertoff, Is Up for Homeland". The New York Obserever. http://www.observer.com/node/50339. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  9. ^ "Bush names new US security chief". BBC. 2005-01-11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4165507.stm. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  10. ^ Executive Summary, Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, 2006-2-15, Retrieved 2007-6-11
  11. ^ Chertoff, Bush Look for Next Move on Immigration June 8, 2007
  12. ^ "Bush Homeland Security Officials to Stay on Till Weds.", Washington Post, 2009-01-19 (accessed 2009-01-21).
  13. ^ Editorial (April 3, 2008). "Michael Chertoff’s Insult". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/opinion/03thu3.html. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  14. ^ Liptak, Adam (2008-04-08). "wer to Build Border Fence Is Above U.S. Law". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/us/08bar.html. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  15. ^ "Plaintiffs’ Exhibit 2". The New York Times. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/20080408_CRS_report.pdf. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  16. ^ DHS - EVerify "DHS website" December 1, 2007
  17. ^ Chertoff Warns Sanctuary Cities on Illegals "NewsMax" September 6, 2007
  18. ^ "Chertoff Used Cleaning Company That Hired Illegal Immigrants". Fox News. December 11, 2008. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2008/12/11/chertoff-used-cleaning-company-hired-illegal-immigrants/. 
  19. ^ UPI.com
  20. ^ Hsu, Spencer S. (December 11, 2008). "Cleaning Service Used by Chertoff Calls Immigration Laws Unfair". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/10/AR2008121003524.html. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  21. ^ Global Futures, Global Risks 2009 Global Creative Leadership Summit.
  22. ^ DHS.gov
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Ridge
United States Secretary of Homeland Security
Served under: George W. Bush, Barack Obama

2005 – 2009
Succeeded by
Janet Napolitano
Legal offices
Preceded by
Samuel Alito, Jr.
United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey
1990 – 1994
Succeeded by
Faith S. Hochberg
Preceded by
Morton I. Greenberg
Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
2003 – 2005
Succeeded by
Michael Chagares

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