November 5th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
5 years ago

Chertoff warns of transition 'vulnerability'

Chertoff urges Americans to remain alert.
Chertoff urges Americans to remain alert.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Fears that terrorists might strike in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential elections never came to pass. But the nation's homeland security chief said Wednesday the country needs to remain vigilant during the presidential transition.

"Any time there's a transition there's a danger or a risk that vulnerability (to terror attacks) will increase because people become distracted. People are leaving; people are coming in - and that's a disruptive process for any organization," Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff said.

"For that reason, we need to take special pains to make sure that we are very focused on the security of this country from now - in fact, from a month ago or two months ago - through the first half, let's say, of 2009," he said.

Chertoff and others have pointed to terror attacks in Glasgow and Madrid, both of which occurred during transfers of power, as evidence that terrorists time attacks to influence elections

"This is not a statement that there's some imminent threat out there," Chertoff said. "It is a recognition of the human reality that in a changing environment, you have to be extra careful to make sure that you don't lose focus on something like homeland security."

He congratulated President-elect Barack Obama for a "masterly, well-run campaign," and Sen. John McCain, saying McCain's "entire career of public service remains an inspiration to everyone in this country."

He said the Department of Homeland Security has prepared briefing books for Obama's transition team, and has trained top civil service employees so they can help manage the department until Obama appointees are situated.

Chertoff said the department expects to start briefing Obama transition officials within a couple of days, and he expects to meet with his successor about "some of the experiences I've had and the issues that I've seen."

In addition, Chertoff said, "It's my hope ... that the new folks coming into leadership positions will sit with us either late this year or early next year to go through some kind of a tabletop instructional course on incident management, so that if something would happen in the month or two after the new
president gets on board that they'd be as prepared as they reasonably can be based on training.

"So I think we've got a good plan in place."

Chertoff said he plans on staying in office until the January 20 transfer of power, and he does not know what he will do thereafter.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. fairness

    oh my, how some people can get ? Nasty as ever, stupid, not reasonable, narrow minded....
    Obama had excitement, now the work, the sobering comes in place. This the world of adults -sober up, work. I hope he will do well, so we prevail and get better, but it will be very hard. And yes, there are terrorists, dictators, there is danger. These are not fear tactics, these are realities we all have to face.
    the excitement cannot last forever. People get food on table by working, get roof above the head by working, not playing or partying.
    those who thought that this hype party will last forever were wrong, it does not work that way.
    Those who worked long years have the experience, the knowing what can happen. Like mother knows what can hurt the baby.

    November 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. COLORADO

    anonymous, you mean the idiots who voted for Bush twice are actually smarter and more well informed than those great Americans who voted for Obama this time? I can't make you come out of your delusional fantasy world, anonymous, so the rest of the country will take care of itself without your help. Have fun living in your cabin in the woods, anonymous. America has just redeemed itself with the world, and we're moving forward. Obama has won the presidency, there's nothing left for us to do to persuade you, anonymous, so get with the program or get left behind.

    November 5, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Joe

    The first thing Obama needs to do is hire some of his thug friends like Ayers and Rezko to be his "bouncers" at the White House.
    He WILL be the worst President ever elected to office. He hasn't accomplished a single thing while in State or US Senate, and he won't do anything as President.

    November 5, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Bob

    ...they build their world on great confusion to force on us the devil's illusion...

    November 5, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. sabuc for Obama

    "Thanks!" – said the terrorists. Why not mention what times or days are most vulnerable too while you're at it.

    November 5, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. Bill

    Don't give the terrorists a timeframe!

    (Where have I heard that before?)

    November 5, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. pooky

    Good by skelator don't let the door hit you on the way out. The fear is now behind us. The light at the end of the tunnel is not your train it's hope.

    November 5, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. BLACK PEARL

    Today is the beginning of a NEW DAY for America, 8 is the number for new beginnings, Put off OlD stuFF & begin to move into the NEW. God bless you & may God Bless & HEAL America!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Simmy

    They couldn't even handle Katrina, I don't think they need to make comments about the readiness of President Obama and his staff!

    November 5, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. Jim J

    @Nobama – you are correct. Democrats are always full of hate. We always hear what is wrong with the country and never what is right. This is how they instill fear in ordinary folks. McCain ran on hope like Obama did but he always told us how great the country is and how it is humbling to those that serve her. Obama preached hope while his wife – oh God she is our new First Lady? Good God. I wonder if the White House will have leopard print carpet now? Maybe in the Oval Office Bathroom next to Lewinski's spittoon

    November 5, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Darrell

    He said the there was the possibility of an attack before the election and it never happened. Now he back again warning of still another possible attack during the transition. It is kind of strange that the Bush Administration are warning President-Elect Obama of this, while the transition of power in 2000 the Clinton Administration warned of possible attack on the US to the Bush Aministration and guess what they did not pay attention because they were too busy figuring out how to go after Saddam Hussien. Now here we are still no Osama Bin Ladin?

    November 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. jack

    It's time to remove the "Big Brothers" running the Homeland Security and roll back their Orwellian policies. The "Homeland Security Act" was a ruse to take away the freedom and liberty of all Americans.

    Yes we can! and will reform the repressive acts of this last administration.

    November 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. jon_wnc

    Newsflash folks - the campaign is over. They'll be time to discuss President Elect Obama's proposals as they come up. Debating hypotheticals is a good campaign exercise, but it's a waste of energy at this point.

    November 5, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. Carole

    Alll the things that Obama accused Bush and McCain of he is now going to fix – right? I mean Bush and McCain are the cause of all the problems in our Country – right.

    Well I mean, he has been saying he is going to "change" things for two years that I know of – right. Never did say just what he was going to change though – I am still wondering just who Obama is. I am afraid he is about to tell us – and real soon too. Reality can be very sobering.

    So – my only question to Obama and his know-it-all supporters – how can Obama change our Country when he cannot even change the minds of 47% of Americans about his ability to lead?

    God, I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Obama's first serious decision needs to be made – or better yet I wish SNL could be there -would make for some fun fodder for sure.

    November 5, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. CESAR PAJARES

    CAREFUL WITH THE TERRORISTS AT HOME, LIKE THE "WHITE SUPREMACY GROUPS, THE SONS OF HITLER OR SOME LIKE THAT ETC."

    November 5, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. Erik, Austin TX

    Isn't Chertoff the Homeland SECURITY secretary? Isn't it his job to be prepared for attack ALL THE TIME?

    He's going for fearmongering, but the only thing I'm afraid of is that apparently the guy in charge of homeland security is only really concerned about doing his job during election season.

    November 5, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. jack

    To Joe, you still don't get it. It's a new day and yes, your guy lost. But if it will help you get over it, I can line you up with some property just across the street from GWB's ranch in Crawford and the two of you can cry in your beer together. All while watching news reports about what a truly great President we now have.

    November 5, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. GARY

    HE SHOWED HE CAN DO THE TALK ,NOW LETS SEE IF HE CAN DO THE WALK. YOU STINKEN HATERS BETTER COME TOGETHER OR THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY UNITY . YOU YOUNG HATEFULL MORONS NEED TO HAVE RESPECT FOR ALL OTHERS. OBAMA DIDN'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT TO HAVE HATERS FOLLOW HIM.YOU HEARD WHAT HE SAID ABOUT MCCAIN. NO OTHER MAN COULD HAVE DEALT THE TORTURE AND LIFE HE WENT THROUGH ,AND STAND UP AND STILL BE A LEADER AND REAL AMERICAN HERO. MCCAIN ONLY CARED ABOUT HIS COUNTRY FIRST. YOU YOUNG HATERS WOULDN'T KNOW WHAT BEING A REAL AMERICAN IS.YOU ALL HAD NOTHING BUT DISRESPECT TO MCCAIN AND PALIN THROUGH THIS WHOLE RACE. YOU GOT YOUR PRESIDENT NOW LETS SEE WHAT HE REALLY DOES FOR THIS COUNTRY. LIKE OBAMA SAID,IT TAKES EVERYONE TOGETHER. SO DONT DISRESPECT BUSH EITHER. HE KEPT US SAFE FOR EIGHT YRS. OF ATTACKS. HE NEEDS SOME CREDIT TOO,AND HE WAS ONE MAN. HE DIDN'T HAVE ALL THESE SUPPORTERS LIKE OBAMA DOES, SO DONT ABUSE IT FOR OBAMA. HE CAN BE IMPEACHED IF THINGS GET WORST. SO NOW ITS TIME TO GROW UP YOU HATEFULL MORONS AND UNITE

    November 5, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  19. B.Pro

    Don't know about everyone else ,but for me it seemed like the sun shined a litte brighter today than it has in 8 years.

    November 5, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Bill

    What's the big deal? Doesn't Obama get a mulligan when it comes to a terrorist attack on our soil just like the Cheney/Bush Administration did?

    November 5, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Joe

    Do you hear that? It's the faint sounds of the fear-mongers trying to scare us one more time. I guess Chertoff didn't realize the election was *yesterday* and not today, and that the country already decided they were sick of the fear and intimidation from the current administration and their minions.

    First I couldn't wait for Nov 4 to get here, now I can't wait until Jan 20...

    Yes.We.Did!

    November 5, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. Jack in Tampa

    AND THE FEAR MONGERING CONTINUES.......................Shouldn't we always be vigilant?? Isn't that part of the job description of our security agencies?

    Stop calling Fire in the crowded move theater.....enough is enough!!! Time for a new Homeland Security Director!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  23. Cara for Obama

    Here's what I have to say:

    McCain, whether you right-wingers want to admit it or not, does have several health problems. Fact of the matter is, he might not make it through his first term, were he to be elected. That would mean Palin would run the country. *shudders* Do you people REALLY want to do that?! Why would you elect the McCain/Palin ticket in the FIRST place?! Wasn't eight years of Bush ENOUGH?!? Plus, Palin is an idiot. She has NO experience, NO plan, and, honestly, can the woman even form a complete, coherent sentence? She provided laughable answers to serious topics. That does not speak well of a VP candidate. But, she didn't have much of a chance to begin with. I think Palin's IQ is the same as her dress size: 16. Hasta la vista, Palin. In case you can't find it, the door is over there. Keep a real good eye on Russia for us, and make sure you let us know how it's going running your own little corner of the world. Don't forget your two sticks: Hockey stick and lipstick.

    Peace out

    November 5, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. white and black for Obama

    congratulation all my fello folks who blogged for Obama since the begining. God Bless you all.
    We saw what others didnot see at first.

    I blogged from Canada as soon as I come back home I glue to my computer blogging.

    It has paid off. This will be my last blog on cnn political ticker.

    I thank everyone for fighting hard for our guy. I hope now the hate will be joy, as I expect unity among you. All the best Americans, I have helped blogged your new president. God protect him and his family. Amen.

    Peter Prince
    Toronto Canada.

    November 5, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  25. Uncle Fester

    So for the last 8 years we have had the goverment snooping into the emails, phone calls, bank accounts of citizens, searching us at airports, telling us that we are all going to die if a Democrat is elected to ANY position, and we are still not safe.? We have had a President who considers himself exempt from laws in the name of national security, and his own people are saying that we are vulnerable? Why does that not surprise me.
    And Carole, a landslide is defined as winning over 60% if the electoral college vote, and/or 55% of the popular vote

    November 5, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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