Michael Chertoff

Michael Chertoff
2nd United States 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  February 15, 2005
Nominated by George W. Bush
Preceded by Morton Greenberg
Succeeded by Michael Chagares
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division
In office
President George W. Bush
Preceded by James K. Robinson
Succeeded by Christopher A. Wray
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey
In office
President George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Preceded by Samuel Alito
Succeeded by Faith Hochberg
Personal details
Born (1953-11-28) November 28, 1953
Elizabeth, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Meryl Justin (1988–present)
Children Philip
Education Harvard University (A.B., J.D.)
Religion Judaism[1]

Michael Chertoff (born November 28, 1953) is an American attorney who was the second United States Secretary of Homeland Security under Presidents George W. Bush and (for one day) Barack Obama, and co-author of the USA PATRIOT Act. 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 not only from his time as Secretary of Homeland Security (like Hon. Paul A. Schneider, former deputy secretary of DHS), but also from the time of the Obama administration (like Mark Weatherford, former deputy under-secretary of DHS), as well as Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.[3] Chertoff was also elected as Chairman of BAE Systems for a three-year term, beginning May 1, 2012.

Chertoff co-chairs the Bipartisan Policy Center's Immigration Task Force.

Early life

Chertoff was born on November 28, 1953 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. His father was Rabbi Gershon Baruch Chertoff (1915–96), a Talmud scholar and the former leader of the Congregation B'nai Israel in Elizabeth. His mother is Livia Chertoff (née Eisen), an Israeli citizen and the first flight attendant for El Al.[4] His paternal grandparents are Rabbi Paul Chertoff[5] and Esther Barish Chertoff.[6]

Chertoff went to the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth as well as the Pingry School. He later attended Harvard College, graduating in 1975, although he spent his sophomore year at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom. He then attended Harvard Law School, where he was a research assistant on John Hart Ely's book Democracy and Distrust. After graduating magna cum laude in 1978, Chertoff went on to clerk for appellate judge Murray Gurfein for a year before clerking for United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. 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 United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, 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.

Chertoff has been a resident of Westfield, New Jersey.[7]

Government employment

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 United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.[8] 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.[9] 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.[9]

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 Senate Judiciary Committee, investigating racial profiling in New Jersey. He also did some fundraising for George W. Bush[10] and other Republicans 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 suspected terrorist 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, particularly regarding the detention of thousands of Middle Eastern immigrants.

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. He was confirmed by the Senate 88–1 on June 9, 2003, with Senator Hillary Clinton of New York casting the lone dissenting vote, 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.[11]

Secretary of Homeland Security and subsequent career

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.[12]

Hurricane Katrina occurred while Chertoff was Secretary of Homeland Security. The Department was criticized for its lack of preparation; though, most criticism was directed toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency.[13] However, there was also criticism that DHS in general, and Chertoff in particular, responded poorly to the event, ignoring crucial information about the catastrophic nature of the storm and devoting little attention to the federal response to what became the most costly disaster in American history.[14]

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.[15]

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".[16]

He went on to form The Chertoff Group (TCG) on February 2, 2009 to work on crisis and risk management. The firm is also led by Chad Sweet; the Chief of Staff of Homeland Security while Chertoff was Secretary and a two-year stint at the Directorate of Operations for the CIA. They also employ Charles E. Allen, Larry Castro, Jay M. Cohen, General Michael V. Hayden and other former government employees.


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."[17]

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."[18]

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."[19]

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.[20] He said that the DHS is exploring its legal options and intends to take action to prevent any interference with the law.[21]

In 2008 it became public that the housekeeping company Chertoff had hired to clean his house employed illegal immigrants.[22][23][24]


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.[25]

Body scanners

Michael Chertoff has been an advocate of enhanced technologies, such as full body scanners.[26] His lobbying firm Chertoff Group (founded 2009) represents manufacturers of the scanners.[27][28]

Climate change

Michael Chertoff co-signed the preface to the report "National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change" published in 2014 where he stated that "projected climate change is a complex multi-decade challenge. Without action to build resilience, it will increase security risks over much of the planet. It will not only increase threats to developing nations in resource-challenged parts of the world, but it will also test the security of nations with robust capability, including significant elements of our National Power here at home."[29]

Political endorsements

For the 2016 presidential election, Chertoff endorsed Hillary Clinton.[30]


  1. Michael Chertoff fast facts, CNN library
  2. Covington & Burling (2009). Michael Chertoff. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  3. Chertoff Group Team Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  4. Kitaeff, Jack Jews in Blue: The Jewish American Experience in Law Enforcement
  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. "Pittsburgh PostGazette Jan 12, 1966". News.google.com. 1966-01-12. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  7. Corbin, Horace. "A Night With Michael Chertoff", The Westfield Leader, March 31, 2010. Accessed October 26, 2015. "Born in Elizabeth, N.J. and a former Westfield resident, Michael Chertoff returned to his Jersey roots last Wednesday night for dinner at Echo Lake Country Club, sponsored by Asm. Jon Bramnick."
  8. U.S. Attorney's Office District of New Jersey, A Rich History of Service Archived December 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. 1 2 "Chertoff called 'consummate professional'". MSNBC. 2005-01-11. Retrieved 2008-10-15 via Associated Press.
  10. Eskow, Richard (May 5, 2011). "Green Alert: Banks Use Bush Terror Team, Threat Tactics to Push Debit Card Fees". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  11. Ratner, Lizzy (2005-01-16). "Hillary's Nemesis, Mean Mike Chertoff, Is Up for Homeland". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  12. "Bush names new US security chief". BBC. 2005-01-11. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  13. Executive Summary, Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, 2006-2-15, Retrieved 2007-6-11
  14. Christopher Cooper and Robert Block. 2006. Disaster : Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security. New York: Times Books, 2006.
  15. Chertoff, Bush Look for Next Move on Immigration June 8, 2007
  16. "Bush Homeland Security Officials to Stay on Till Weds.", Washington Post, 2009-01-19 (accessed 2009-01-21).
  17. Editorial (April 3, 2008). "Michael Chertoff's Insult". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  18. Liptak, Adam (2008-04-08). "wer to Build Border Fence Is Above U.S. Law". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  19. "Plaintiffs' Exhibit 2" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  20. DHS - EVerify "DHS website" December 1, 2007
  21. Chertoff Warns Sanctuary Cities on Illegals "NewsMax" September 6, 2007
  22. "Chertoff Used Cleaning Company That Hired Illegal Immigrants". Fox News. December 11, 2008.
  23. "UPI.com". UPI.com. 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  24. Hsu, Spencer S. (December 11, 2008). "Cleaning Service Used by Chertoff Calls Immigration Laws Unfair". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  25. Global Futures, Global Risks 2009 Global Creative Leadership Summit.
  26. DHS.gov Archived October 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. 12/30/09 9:33pm 12/30/09 9:33pm. "Why Is Michael Chertoff So Excited About Full-Body Scanners?". Gawker.com. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  28. RonPaul.com on November 17, 2010 (2010-11-17). "Ron Paul to TSA: Stop Irradiating Our Bodies!". Ron Paul .com. Retrieved 2013-08-28.
  29. CNA Military Advisory Board, May 2014. "National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change" http://www.cna.org/sites/default/files/MAB_2014.pdf
  30. "Once A Clinton Nemesis During Whitewater, Now A Clinton Supporter". NPR. October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
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Legal offices
Preceded by
Samuel Alito
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Faith Hochberg
Preceded by
Morton Greenberg
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Succeeded by
Michael Chagares
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Ridge
United States Secretary of Homeland Security
Succeeded by
Janet Napolitano
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