Thursday, January 20, 2005

Chertoff Indicative of More Legal Manipulations

January 20, 2005

The new head of the Department of Homeland Defense, a 51-year-old man named Michael Chertoff, is being promoted to the post from a two-year stint as a federal judge. A graduate of Harvard, he worked at Latham and Watkins, a Washington law firm, for a few years before becoming a federal prosecutor.

He made a name for himself as an attorney in 1986 when Rudy Giuliani put him in charge of the important prosecution of several New York crime families, and he went on to make a lot of friends in the Republican party as an ethics attorney during the scandal-mongering Gingrich years.

From 1994 to 1996, he serve as the government's lead counsel in the Whitewater trial, and in '94 Latham and Watkins took him on again (this time as partner) for several years until he left to pursue work in the Bush Justice Department in 2001.

Chertoff is a disturbing choice for head of the DoHD. The former head was Tom Ridge, a two-term governor of Pennsylvania who had proven himself a devoted and administratively skilled Bushie, but Chertoff comes from a background as a federal attorney.

In his position with the Justice Department, he often served as a judicial attack dog for Ashcroft, and in discussing the war on terror, he has made several rather ominous statements concerning the proper level of government access to Americans' computer files. Longtime friends say that he has very clear ideas about what is right and wrong, a characterization that jibes well with Bush's polarized moral rhetoric, and he has proven himself quite loyal to the administration.

He not only approved but later defended the detention of hundreds of Arab "material witnesses" in the wake of Sept. 11, absolutely none of whom turned out to have been involved. He has since ruled in favor of the ridiculous "security precautions" involved in the case against Zacarias Moussaoui. This includes a completely bogus ruling that the Court could not order the government to produce its star witness because he was outside the country, even though (get this) he was being held in an undisclosed location for reasons of "national security" by the federal government!

Chertoff has also used this interpretation of what constitutes "outside the country" to justify the detention of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. For those of you playing the home game, Gauntanamo is a military base, definitively American soil.

The promotion of Condee Rice from security advisor to head of national diplomatic relations is discouraging in and of itself, but in concert with appointees like Chertoff and Alberto "Architect of Abu Ghraib" Gonzales, the new head of the Justice Department, Bush is demonstrating a clear shift in Republican focus. The legal eagles Bush is appointing to every possible position are a clear indication that he intends to reinterpret the law in his second term instead of just flagrantly violating it.

This week's trivia! The Russian phrase for which KGB stands translates roughly to "Committee for State Security," or alternately "Department of Homeland Defense." Other neat trivia, unpublished articles, and delicious primary source materials are available now at Write to if you have something to say.

Cited sources:,, and


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home