Outgoing U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the
fact that U.S. territory has not been attacked since September 11,
2001, is the central accomplishment of his four years in office. Chertoff credits the policies
of U.S. President George Bush with keeping America safe from further
Michael Chertoff told an audience at Washington's
Georgetown University Thursday he is proud of having helped to guard
against acts of terrorism.
"In the dark days immediately
following September 11th, when the smoke was still emanating from
the smoldering fires underneath the World Trade Center, no one would
have predicted that there would have been no successful attack on
American soil in the following seven years," he said.
Chertoff says the absence of attacks since 2001 is a direct result of President Bush's anti-terrorism policies.
of those policies is the U.S.A. Patriot Act, an act of Congress Mr.
Bush signed into law in 2001, broadening government powers to conduct
surveillance and gather intelligence. While some provisions of the
legislation have been controversial, Chertoff says the Patriot Act has
enhanced his agency's ability to protect the country.
not wish on anybody who has the responsibility to protect the American
people, and to look into the eyes of people who lost loved ones in
terrorist attacks, as have done, I would not wish on them having to put
a blindfold back on so they could not adequately assure the public and
themselves that everything possible was being done to protect America,"
Chertoff, who is the second Homeland Security
secretary, says the creation of the cabinet-level department in 2003
was a revolutionary move to coordinate U.S. law enforcement.
purpose was not simply to create a new department," he said. "It was to
have one place where the overarching mission would be [to] protect all
of our air, sea and land against people coming in to do dangerous
things, and then work to protect the internal infrastructure - something
that had never been done before - by analyzing and managing the risk, in
partnership with the private sector."
Janet Napolitano, the
governor of the Southwestern state of Arizona, has been named by
President-elect Barack Obama to succeed Chertoff as Homeland Security
Secretary. Chertoff says he is sure that she will continue the legacy
"I have perfect confidence in the dedication of my
successor and the new administration," he said. "I believe they are as
dedicated as we to protecting Americans. And I believe they will want
to carry on and discharge this most important obligation with as much
vigor as we did."
Chertoff cautioned, however, that serious
security threats remain. He says that point was vividly underscored by
last month's deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, which he says were
skillfully coordinated and particularly targeted toward financial
centers and Americans.