- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner, whose efforts to create a unified border security force have been one of few successes within the beleaguered Department of Homeland Security, announced his resignation yesterday.

Mr. Bonner took over the U.S. Customs Service in 2001 on the day before al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He spent the next four years developing a “front-line, law-enforcement agency” — Customs and Border Protection — as part of Homeland Security to better protect the nation against attacks.

CBP encompasses 42,000 supervisors, field agents, inspectors and others from U.S. Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Border Patrol.

“I came in at a very difficult time and got the job done the best I could,” Mr. Bonner said yesterday. “We learned the lessons of September 11, and the dedicated men and women at Customs and Border Protection worked day and night to make America safer and more secure.

“It’s for others to judge what we’ve done, although I think we have accomplished a lot — and now it’s time to move on.”

Mr. Bonner, a former federal judge, prosecutor and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, plans to stay on the job for at least the next two months, until a replacement can be named, and then will go home to California, where he is considering returning to private law practice.

No successor has been chosen.

The Department of Homeland Security is in the midst of a major reorganization, with questions in Congress on whether it can do the job. The department also has been under fire for a lack of response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Hurricane Katrina and questions about the qualifications of President Bush’s nominee to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I am proud to have been a part of the first Homeland Security team … and to have been given the task to create one front-line, law-enforcement agency for our nation’s borders — CBP,” he said. “Because of the brave, dedicated men and women of CBP, I know that when I leave my post America is a more secure nation.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff described Mr. Bonner as “an integral part” of the department’s leadership team.

“I have known Rob for many years; he is an outstanding public servant and will be greatly missed here at the department. I appreciate the commitment and service he has shown in directing our border security efforts.

“His guidance and efforts have been instrumental in balancing our need to preserve the integrity of our borders without sacrificing the free flow of commerce on which our nation and the global community depends.”

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