Homeland Security

Q-and-A with Secretary Michael Chertoff, Department of Homeland Security

Q: What are your plans after Jan. 20, 2009?

I am looking forward to taking a break and then taking on new challenges. I have not made a decision yet. Until Jan. 20, the department is focused on a seamless and safe transition, and I am committed to assisting my successor and her team in any way I can.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

I am not sure, but I would like to stay involved in the issues I've been working on as Secretary.

Are Terrorists Reverse Outliers?

The first few dispatches about the Mumbai terrorists came out yesterday and there are already some revealing details about the 10 gunmen who opened fired indiscriminately on civilians in the streets and buildings of Mumbai. The gunmen are alleged members of Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistani separatist group located in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

An attack like this shakes the mind. How could human beings carry out such an act of evil?

Osama vs. Obama

For many people in the the Arab world, attacking George W. Bush is one thing. Going after Barack Hussein Obama is another.

That's the impression I'm getting from North Africans who've seen the latest video diatribe from al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In the video, which is airing widely on Arabic TV channels, al-Zawahiri accuses the U.S. president-elect of everything from denying his racial heritage to outright apostasy.

Trials for Guantánamo Detainees on U.S. Soil?

The election has been held, the results are in and America prepares for the 44th president of the United States. Whatever your politics, this is a time of transition and transformation and a time to give the president-elect and his incoming team the benefit of the doubt — hoping that perhaps they will govern more pragmatically than the manner in which they campaigned for high office.

In this context, I was stunned to read an AP article this morning that began thusly: "President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantánamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice." And there you have it.

Anti-terrorist Protection Without Sacrificing Civil Liberties

As President-elect Barack Obama confronts a myriad of domestic and foreign issues, one of the most critical will be what to do about the Terrorist Surveillance Program and other highly classified, covert programs that caused substantial civil liberties concerns during much of the Bush administration.

In this regard, his national security transition team will want to assess the effectiveness of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a five-member, president-appointed panel that provides independent supervision of the government's anti-terrorist activities that could infringe on privacy rights and civil liberties rights. The board was recommended by the 9/11 Commission and created by the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, and subsequently amended in 2007.

The New American Komityet Gosudarstvennoy Besopasnosty

Now that the Bush administration is making its final efforts to do away with civil liberties, we need to adjust to the new totalitarian reality.

With non-stop proposals to continue consolidating our law enforcement and intelligence entities, the inevitable police state will need to come up with a new name for the single government organization that will control and monitor every facet of our lives.

No longer will we need a confusing alphabet to differentiate between the various agencies. No longer will we need "PD" (as in NYPD or LAPD), FBI, DoJ, DIA, CIA or even NCIS. We can combine them. Let's call them all "The KGB.”

Spotlight: House Committee on Homeland Security

Every now and then, I like to shine a spotlight on the shenanigans of our beloved U.S. Congress and its members. After all, there’s so much “news” being generated in this town that it’s nearly impossible to catch it all. So with this feature, I’ll try and call attention to items that should really make Americans’ blood boil. Rest assured, this column will be an equal-opportunity critic — challenging both Democrats and Republicans.

This week’s spotlight looks at a story that barely registered a blip on Washington’s audacity-meter last week. I’m referring to a story in Congress Daily reporting on turmoil within the House Homeland Security panel.

Obama's ‘Sister Souljah Moment’ on the Surveillance Bill

This post was also published in today's Chicago Sun-Times. — Ed.

Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) announcement that he would support the compromise bill providing court and congressional supervision of the president's Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) and immunity for certain telecom companies that cooperated with it has led to a barrage of criticism from his "netroot" supporters on his campaign website and in much of the liberal blogosphere.

But the senator's position is not only correct on the merits from a pro-civil liberties and -privacy rights perspective. It also provided the senator an important chance to demonstrate his "Sister Souljah moment."

Supreme Mistake

As they adjourned for the summer, the Supreme Court ruled this morning in a close 5-4 decision that terrorist detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are afforded rights and protections under the Constitution.

What a travesty of justice handed down by justices more interested in political correctness than protecting the American people from very dangerous people who seek to kill us and end our way of life. Make no mistake, these are not Boy Scouts held against their will in Camp Gitmo. No, these are enemy combatants who have been captured on the battlefield and sent to Cuba. Let me say that again: captured on the battlefield waging war against our brave men and women.

The Torture Amendment Democrats Should Offer

In the most astounding testimony to Congress that I can remember, Gen. Hartmann
refused to state that waterboarding against American POWs is illegal. The entire upper strata of American military leadership, plus vets, plus military families, plus virtually all Americans, would vehemently disagree with Gen. Hartmann.

The general's problem is that he cannot say that waterboarding against American troops is illegal without saying waterboarding by the CIA or other U.S. agencies is illegal.

It is time to end waterboarding once and for all.