Former federal prosecutor Michael Chertoff was named by President Bush today to head the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Bush called Chertoff a “brilliant thinker.” Chertoff, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 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, the Associated Press reports.
Chertoff would replace Tom Ridge, the department’s first chief. Chertoff was the president’s second pick for the job. Former New York City police chief Bernard Kerik withdrew last month, citing immigration problems with a family housekeeper. Chertoff, a former U.S. Attorney in New Jersey and the Senate Republicans’ chief counsel for the Clinton-era Whitewater investigation, 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. Cheroff played a significant role in development of the USA Patriot Act to combat terrorist attacks. Chertoff was praised by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said he “has the resume 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.”