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. johnrj08

    I believe Chertoff. I agree that the Bush administration has often used 'scare tactics' when it wasn't necessary, but this is not one of those times. Right now, the country is very high on itself. Lots of positive feedback from other countries. It would be just like Al Qaeda to try to pop that balloon. Chertoff is right.

    November 5, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Sarah the Sandwich-Maker

    So I guess that the Homeland Security "Treat Level" should have been increased? Ooops, it has remained constant since 2006. Well, no matter, as long as the press release was prepared and issued.

    November 5, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Dan, TX

    Hey PUMAs – how you doin'?

    November 5, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Mark

    You bring up some valid issues AJ.

    November 5, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Think for yourself

    Some of you seriously need to take a leap off the fear wagon, take a deep post-campaign breath, and take a walk along the river of objectivity.

    The only reason you are "scared" or think Obama is the end of the world is because campaign propaganda told you to think that way and you bought it.

    I don't fear any of the four candidates because I read their actual proposed policies, studied their records and mad an objective choice without listening to the rhetoric. I challenge all of you who are addicted to these blogs to become an independent and try it and you will be enlightened and set free.

    My conclusion was that all four were good candidates and considering the situation we are in right now in our country, the obvious choice won.

    November 5, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Kyle C.

    Call me careless, but they have been warning us since September 12, 2001 of another attack from everything ranging from the World Series to affecting the election, and frankly I do not believe that another attack will happen any time soon. Continue to warn us, or me anyway, of eminent terrorist attack, and I will continue to believe less and less of it

    November 5, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. Uncle Sam

    A Pres. Obama would be well-advised to take advantage of the wisdom of someone like John McCain.

    November 5, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. Rick

    Bush's record on keeping this country safe from another terrorist attack since 9/11 is flawless. I hope Obama and the democrats are able to do the same.

    November 5, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. Jules

    What I dont understand is all the comments somehow blaming Obama for the lack of security, or a terrorist threat, or a job loss.

    HELLO! He hasnt even been President-ELECT for 24 hours. And for those that seemed to have forgotten...all of these issues were right here 4 years ago, a year ago, a month ago, and would still be here if MCCain won! Things wont change overnight, its ignorant to think that they will!


    November 5, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  10. Lisa

    The greatest danger to the American People has not come from other Countries, but our own is doing to us!

    They're the ones putting us in harms way, with their hateful and controlling ways!

    Thank God Obama won because if McCain had won we would be headed for several more war.

    I'm tired of all the fighting is the all this country enjoy doing. Can't we take a breather from the hate, lies, and fear tatics please.

    November 5, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. Paul, FL-TLH

    The only other option is not to have had a new election and to have kept Bush as Dictator-in-Chief. Maybe Chertoff would have preferred that...?

    November 5, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. voter

    republicans cannot seem to let go of fear. The world weighed in and they are ecstatic for President elect Obama. The world leaders said thay want peace and prosperity which they believe Obama would provide. So stop the tactic of fear or not the republicans will continue to lose elections.

    November 5, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. Carole

    Obama did not win by any landslide – 47% of the people did not vote for him. That being said – Obama also did not run a flawles campaign – the left wing media put him in – he ran no campaign by himself whatsoever. Now, he will need more than ever smart and experience people to surround him. Obama is going to be one of those Presidents who is going to say – hey that is no my job – I can see it already. Well, I am waiting for his "big deal" change that is all I can say. Hop to it Obama.

    November 5, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Ken

    This is just precious! The political appointee Chertoff finally admitting that he can't do the job Bush selected him for.

    And I agree with JP - we have to realize that 9-11's fuse was lit back in the Reagan Bush years. Thanks for reminding us. But we also have to remember that Bush Jr. stuffed the white house terorism office under 2 extra layers of bureaucrasy when he came to the white house, and then he admitted that al Queda wasn't even on his radar before 9-11. Its one thing to be blindsided, but its quite another to foolishly do all you can to guarantee you'll be blindsided. Thank God the neo-morons will be gone soon.

    November 5, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Meka




    November 5, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. Beverly, NYC

    How's the hunt for Bin Laden going Mr. Chertoff? Republicans are quite eager to dump their mess on Obama/Biden, I'm sure Bush would move to Texas now if he could. Also, thanks but no thanks to your tabletop instruction course, you guys already proved you had no clue during Katrina or 9/11. I think Obama should talk to the Brits on what they do with terrorist and do that times 10. The English had trains and buses bombed, by athat fternoon all suspects were face down on national tv in their underwear, obviously they know how to handle this sort of thing. I wouldn't trust Bush's political appointees to plan a picnic.

    November 5, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. The Chickens will come home

    The Chickens will come home to roost!

    November 5, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Ike

    They said that there is a Judas Iscariot in every organization/ Circle. Liberman is that.... for sure!!!
    Anyway, to talk about the subject at hand. There will be no threat to Homeland Security if Michael does his Job... He should be replaced anyway. What is he doing there?

    November 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. Hilodave

    Dear Michael Chertoff
    The faster you disappear from the scene the better.....but don't forget to do your job in the next few months.....I mean that is your job isn't it, to protect from natural and political harm.

    Ike, Rita and Katrina

    November 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. Ratgurl

    Mr Chertoff, is this paranoia based on anything in particular, or are you just seting us up for martial law?

    November 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. Jeff Brown

    Go away you skeleton!

    November 5, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. MT

    Most think the "terror thing" is over with. No one realizes the effort it took under GWB to thwart another attack. Now that the election party is over, it would be good to stay on our toes and stay vigilant. When the rest of the world parties with us, it may NOT be a good sign. Let's stay vigilant America!!

    November 5, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  23. Obama/Biden 08!

    Bush pissed the planet off so no kidding were not safe! Sooner Bush and clones are gone the better.

    November 5, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. Steve in San Diego

    How many of the people that were in the Twin Towers on 9/11 would also have taken the threat of a terrorist attack with the same careless attitude? This may seem trite, but nothing happens until it happens, and then eveyone will be wondering how we let it happen.

    November 5, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. Tannim

    Good thing Skeletor is fired soon. He's still stuck on the politics of fear.

    Fact is, an attack during the transition period is not likely. Afterward, though, it could happen, to test the new administration. Considering that one hasn't happened since 9/11 through more dumb luck than anything else , it's not a question of "if" but "when". I hope the answer is "never".

    November 5, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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