Michael Chertoff received adulation at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing to consider his nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security on February 2. Senators of both parties praised Chertoff, a former US Attorney and Assistant Attorney General who is giving up a lifetime appointment to the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals in New Jersey, as a distinguished public servant. Despite his many accomplishments, however, Chertoff's role in helping shape some of the Bush Administration's most controversial policies deserve far more scrutiny than they've received to date.
As Dave Lindorff's recent Nation editorial argues, Chertoff effectively prevented early exposure of the Bush/Rumsfeld/Gonzales policy of torture by making a plea agreement with "American Taliban" fighter John Walker Lindh, which required him to remain silent about his treatment. According to human rights attorney Michael Ratner, Chertoff's decision to prevent Lindh from speaking out about abuse at Guantanamo could have contributed to the "migration" of torture to Abu Ghraib.
A comprehensive ACLU study released last week goes further in surveying Chertoff's record and raises questions about the sincerity of the nominee's strong pledges of support for civil liberties and of opposition to racial profiling.
Click here to read and circulate the ACLU'S report and click here to write to your Senators asking them to carefully consider the questions about Chertoff before voting on his nomination. Even though his nomination is expected to pass, possibly as soon as this week, there's still value in helping lay out his record and the many valid questions an honest examination of his past suggests.
Co-written by Mark Hatch Miller