November 5th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
12 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. Abul

    First thing obama need to do is to kick Liberman out!!!

    November 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Former Republican in TX ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Well Michael, it's YOUR job to take care of homeland security, so get cracking son!

    November 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. Peter (CA)

    So, we're vulnerable during the election. We're vulnerable during the transition. We're vulnerable when the country is doing well. We're vulnerable when things are not going so well. We're probably vulnerable on Christmas because we're all fat and sleepy.

    So, since we are ALWAYS vulnerable, why not just say that?

    November 5, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. AJ

    I think we need to worry about atrocities from within more than we do atrocities from outside the US. We now live in a nation that says it is okay to kill a baby and elect a convicted felon to the US senate but it is not okay for two people who love each other to get married or for people who are willing to take in an unwanted child and love it and give it a nurturing home. Great values America. I should be proud to be an American right now but can feel nothing but shame.

    November 5, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. bruce

    This is no should be expected.

    November 5, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. sky

    chertoff is still using the old game plan.....he needs to go away.

    November 5, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. Michelle, PA

    Then I guess Chertoff will be a busy man until January 20th, won't he?

    Seriously, it looks like it will take more than 1 day for some people to learn fear doesn't sell anymore. That's OK, if Obama had lost I'd probably be a little cranky today too. They'll get it....eventually.

    November 5, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Obama Victim

    what is the over and under on the first attack?? grab your wallet and hug your family.............they are both in jeopardy

    November 5, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. LIP

    This will probably be my last blog on this site.
    I am white, male and Republican and I have a new President and his name is President Barrack Obama and I am extremely proud of this person and the struggle he represents.
    It is time all of us puts this election behind us and it is time that all of us stand behind our new President and focus on the future and what it means.
    Enough hatred people.
    Remember that this is American and we are a nation of diversity and diversity means people and politics and religions. Let it go now and support our country and it's representatives.

    November 5, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. anonymous

    Oh crap – we're not worried – the idiots voted in NOBAMA, the messiah, he'll watch out for us, sit down with the leaders of rogue nations, without preconditions I might add, and we'll all be saved by the next coming.....

    November 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. Alex

    Apparently fear-mongering is an essential spoke of the DHS's anti-terrorism security strategy...

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

    I hope Obama puts someone smart in that position. It would be a great job for someone like John McCain or Colin Powell.

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

    OK, when terrorists attack this country after 20 Jan 09, you media types are going to rightfully and fully place the blame at "Senator Government's" feet, right?

    You know, just like you did with 9/11, a bomb whose fuse was lit YEARS earlier under a different administration.

    November 5, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. Wade

    Boo, more scare tactics!

    November 5, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. ANGIE

    We all Expect this President Obama be very careful as well boost up his security!

    November 5, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. James

    When President Elect, Obama starts the elimination process, Mr. Chertoff and the entire Homeland Security Dept. needs to be released.
    Being part of the Bush "Scare Tactic", there's always better Means!
    Namely, Cause and Affect.

    November 5, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  17. June W

    Even on their way out the door they are still peddling fear!
    Good work Cherty, put some ideas into their heads. Now thats what I call real intelligence. Just do your job and then go away.

    November 5, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. Abby

    Abul, Lieberman is an elected official...No one can kick him out. They can take away his chairmanships of some committees but he’ll still be a senator.

    November 5, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  19. Lisa

    What ever I'm so tired of them trying to put fear in the heart of the American people. The Bible tell us perfect love cast out fear! The reason American Leaders are so fearful is because they know how much dirt they have done to others.

    This is going to be the smoothes transition ever!!!

    Only bullies need to be afraid! What in the world have this administration done to other countries to be so fearful!!!!

    November 5, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Brent

    Obama will nuke somebody and put W to shame!

    November 5, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. former gop

    Stop with the scare tactics!!! You even look like the grim reaper!!!

    November 5, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Willy

    Bravo LIP.

    November 5, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. Get Real

    Hey Abul, the time of cheap shots and lame comments are over. Wake up, its a new day.

    November 5, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. Rob

    What do you mean 'during the transition'? With this no talent yutz in office, he's gonna pull troops out of Iraq, listen to Barney 'Fannie Mae' Frank and slash the defense budget by at least 25%, take money that should be spent on defending the country and give to slacks who are either sitting on their butts having babies to collect govt. checks or waiting by the phone for that call from Diddy with the rap record contract, and put this country in danger. Transition period? No sir, more like from second one he takes the oath to whenever people get smart and boot his no talent inexperienced butt out of office.

    Yeah America, that's right, you voted and now we'll pay the price. Nice job!

    November 5, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. California Gold

    Ya know for decades we have had transitions in the Presidency and this "vulnerability" is not a new concept. It's just that it sold so well on the American public during the past 8 years, but that dog don't hunt. Chertoff can join Bush in Texas for some backyard bar-be-que and look for threats behind trees and shrubs.

    November 5, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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