Michael Chertoff was nominated by President George W. Bush on January 11, 2005, to succeed Tom Ridge as Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Chertoff has served as a United States Court of Appeals judge, federal prosecutor and assistant U.S. Attorney General.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Chertoff attended Harvard University, graduating in 1975. He then graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1978, going on to clerk for appellate judge Murray Griffin 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.
Being the son of a rabbi, Chertoff is also known to have strong ties to the Jewish community. Both of his children have attended Jewish private schools, and his wife, Meryl, was a co-chairwomen of the regional Anti-Defamation League's civil rights committee.
In 1987, Chertoff joined the office of the U.S. Attorney for the state of New Jersey and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as United States Attorney for the state in 1990. Chertoff was asked to stay in his position after President Clinton took office in 1993 at the request of Democratic Senator Bill Bradley making him the sole Republican U.S. attorney not replaced by the new administration. Chertoff stayed with the U.S. Attorney's office until 1994, when he entered private practice, returning to Latham & Watkins as a partner.
Chertoff later served as special counsel for the Senate committee during the Whitewater investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton. When Chertoff faced Senate confirmation in 2003 for a federal judgeship, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then a Senator from New York, cast the lone dissenting vote against Chertoff's confirmation, explaining that her vote was in protest of the way junior White House staffers were "very badly treated" by Chernoff's staff during the Whitewater investigation.
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 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 prosecutions case against terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui and against accounting firm Arthur Andersen for destroying documents relating to the Enron collapse. There, he came under fire as one of the chief architects of the Bush administration's legal strategies for fighting the war on terror. One of the more controversial elements of this strategy was the detainment of thousands of immigrants of Middle-Eastern descent. Chertoff also was an instrumental figure in the drafting of the USA Patriot Act. His input helped in the final indictment of a Florida-based alleged leader of Islamic Jihad.
Chertoff was appointed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia by George W. Bush on March 5, 2003, and was confirmed by the Senate 88-1 on June 9. His confirmation to the Homeland Security post was unanimously approved by the Senate on February 15, 2005.
Sources: Wikipedia Encyclopedia; The Observer, (January 14, 2005)