Bush Hails New Homeland Security Chief as Right Person
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2005 Michael Chertoff took the oath of office here today as the nation's second secretary of homeland security, succeeding Tom Ridge in the newest Cabinet post.
Calling Chertoff the "right person" to lead the department in defending the nation from further terrorist attack, President Bush praised his record of achievement as a U.S. attorney, federal appeals court judge and assistant attorney general. At the Justice Department, Chertoff helped trace the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America to the al Qaeda terrorist network and worked to increase information sharing within the FBI, the president said.
"Mike has worked tirelessly to make our people safer and our nation more secure," Bush said. "Now he will carry on that vital work as the secretary of homeland security."
The president also praised the department's employees. "America is safer because of your efforts," he told them, noting that since 9/11, the nation has taken unprecedented steps to protect the American people, taken the battle to the enemy, and taken extraordinary measures to better protect the homeland.
"The success of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do not always make the headlines," the president said. "But I understand what you've done, and I appreciate your hard work. By your tireless efforts behind the scenes, you have help protect our citizens and secure our nation. And this country is grateful for all you do."
But, Bush warned, the nation is not yet safe. He referred to recent reports that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged terrorist leader Musab Abu al-Zarqawi to begin conducting attacks outside Iraq, including in the United States.
The president called bin Laden's message "a telling reminder that al Qaeda still hopes to attack us on our own soil." "Stopping them," he said, "is the greatest challenge of our day."
Bush noted Chertoff's service to the nation. "Mike is wise, and he is tough," the president said. "He knows the nature of the enemy. ... He understands that the terrorists are brutal and determined, and that to stop them all our agencies must work more closely together, using every resource and technological advantage we have."
Chertoff is the right person to lead the department, the president added, because "he knows that to win the war on terror abroad, we always must remember where it began - here in the homeland." The newly sworn-in Cabinet member called defending the homeland "the challenge and the calling of our generation."
"Thousands of men and women," he said, "now stand watch across this country and overseas, guarding our families and our freedoms. ... I am honored to join these dedicated public servants.
"All Americans," he continued, "have placed their trust in the men and women who carry out the important work of homeland security. I look forward to carrying out this vital charge as we strengthen the protections already in place at our ports of entries, in our skies overhead, and in our cities and our communities."