- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Michael Chertoff told a Senate panel yesterday that he will walk the fine line between securing the country against terrorists and protecting Americans’ civil liberties if confirmed as the nation’s second homeland security chief.

“I believe that the secretary of homeland security will have to be mindful of the need to reconcile the imperatives of security with the preservation of liberty and privacy,” Mr. Chertoff told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“As an attorney representing indigent defendants, as a legislative counsel examining racial profiling and as a U.S. circuit court judge, I have committed to fostering liberty and privacy. If confirmed, I will draw on this background to promote measures that enhance our security while affirming our constitutional values.”

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Chertoff said, the Justice Department “did everything we could to strike the right balance” between liberty and security. He added, however, that the manner in which some detainees were apprehended and treated was “regrettable.”

All prisoners were charged with criminal or immigration violations, and some prisoners said they were abused or prevented from seeking legal advice.

Mr. Chertoff, an appeals court judge, faced tough questioning from some committee Democrats about the Justice Department’s role in providing guidance on methods to interrogate terror suspects. He led the department’s Criminal Division from 2001 to 2003.

The White House said Tuesday that Mr. Chertoff did not advise the CIA on torture techniques. The nominee said he had been asked his opinion as a prosecutor and had responded that if a technique “makes you nervous, you better make sure that you are doing the right thing.”

“Torture is illegal,” he added.

The 51-year-old New Jersey native was introduced to the panel by his home state Democratic Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Jon Corzine, both of whom praised the nominee for leaving a lucrative and permanent career for a short-term job in the Bush administration.

“We’re so lucky to have someone like him to take on this task,” Mr. Lautenberg said.

Mr. Corzine dubbed Mr. Chertoff a “straight shooter,” adding, “I think that’s what we need.”

Mr. Chertoff’s nomination is expected to be approved by the full Senate by the end of next week. Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and committee chairman, said a Democrat blocked a panel vote yesterday, but that another could come as early as Monday.

Mr. Chertoff was tapped for the post after former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik withdrew his nomination when accusations surfaced about his having extramarital affairs and employing an illegal Mexican housekeeper.

Mr. Chertoff is considered a safe pick for President Bush because he has been confirmed by the Senate for three separate posts.

Senators on both sides of the aisle questioned the nominee about how much money in grants and assistance the Homeland Security Department should be spending. They requested that, as secretary, he spend more money on first responders, port security and other personnel, and that he refund the District the millions it spent on security for Mr. Bush’s inauguration.

Mr. Chertoff acknowledged that resources are scarce and priorities must be established to distribute funding to the areas needed most.

“We cannot protect everything, everywhere, and at every time, we have to make a choice,” he said.

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