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. Susan

    Yes, watch our country VERY carefully!

    We want our country united & strong again!!

    November 5, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    @ CAROLE.......OBAMA DID.......WIN..........BY ..........A ........LANDLSLIDE!




    November 5, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. kat

    He wanted to get his name in the news one more time. See ya, Chertoff.

    November 5, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. Robert The Man

    When will the Department of The Thought Police be formed, and who will head that one up? Also when when the tatoo shops be forced to to do the mark of Obama?

    P.S. I hope Ohio's coal industry does goes bankrupt. You get what you ask for.

    November 5, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. ktodman

    You people are as ignorant as they come, this man has his finger on the pulse of what is going on internationally and you dare to question his warnings, Bush did the same thing, he did not heed the warnings of the Clinton Administration and they brushed it off as came to light during the 911 hearings and we got caught asleep. You people are simply ignorant, you will not understand until one of your own is affected. idiots.

    November 5, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. Jim J

    Look everyone, Tannim is a homeland security expert. Obama should hire him.

    November 5, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. Jozee

    Mr. Chertoff, you and the Repubs are still in charge until the transition officially takes place. Should something occur, it will still be on your watch, just as the first 9-11 attack occurred on Republican watch.

    Yes, we will all stay alert, but you do your part and we will do ours.

    November 5, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Michael is really trying to sound important...... Lol.. This is too funny. Advise from the public buddy!!!!! Go home and get some rest Old man.

    November 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  9. Guy

    Whatever happened to the threat level color codes. Are we on level yellow?
    Anyways, change is finally here!!!

    November 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. Guardian

    Chertoff – Job well done. Keep up the hard work and just to point out, it isn't The Secretary of Homeland Security's job to hunt down and track Bin Laden. That's more on the intelligence side/department of defense side of the house. Homeland Security consists of the Coast Guard, ICE, TSA, BP, FEMA, etc.

    November 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  11. john

    We can leave iraq and afghanistan now that the world loves us. Im not a gambling man but I would bet the next attack is soon and viscous .

    November 5, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  12. Locher

    So when Bidden mentions that we might be tested he is attacked by the Right but when Chertoff mentions we might be attacked It's ok? Interesting

    November 5, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  13. JJ

    Ok, correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Biden say this exact same thing and then when he said it, the GOPs trounced all over his statement???

    November 5, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  14. Jim J

    Dictator in Chief – who has had the majority in congress lately. So now we will have a Socialist in Chief with an agreeable house and senate. Now we can kill babies moments from birth and call that progressive, now we can tax those companies that provide us with products only to wonder why they are raising the prices, now we can retire only to find out that our 401Ks are going to be taxed a much higher capital gain. All in the name of change. Now that is real progress.

    November 5, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  15. Ryan

    It is hilarious how all of you Obamabots think world peace and prosperity for all is at hand now. You guys are so clueless it's scary. There is a world out there that is dangerous, Bush didn't make the world hate us. Do you remember Somalia? The terrorist threat during the Clinton administration? Of course you don't. It was all Bush's fault and Obama is going to come in and save the world.

    So simple minded.

    November 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. Ron

    Get rid of this fearmonger!

    November 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Yeah, yeah, the sky is falling, the sky is falling, and we'll let you know when it's officially time to panic.

    This is getting old,Chertoff. In fact, it got old a long time ago. What's the point? A desperate attempt to keep Obama and the Dems from scrapping your police-state PATRIOT Act, FISA, and all the other keep-your-thumb-on-the-citizens crap your boss has saddled us with for the last eight years?

    November 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. Obama is the President

    Abby –
    I live in CT and when Lieberman is up for re-election, he's toast!

    Also Carole –
    Get over yourself. It's a new day and you are a loser.

    November 5, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. Tami

    Umm – Okay – so – most of you think just because Barack Obama was elected President that all the terrorist threats and/or attacks will just disappear .... just be gone ..... poof ..... never happened or could happen ??? – because Obama is President ...... I'm pretty sure now more than ever your safety is ...... umm..... poof... – gone .....!!! I hope the HECK someone is seeing to your safety – because it won't be OBAMA. My "Fellow Americans" be afraid ... be really afraid!

    November 5, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. Ob-Serv

    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.

    This is for Carole: You are absolutely qualified for Palins LAP DOG! See if you can get her to run adain in 2012!!

    November 5, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. Obama is the President

    Hey Nobama....

    Guess what OBAMA WON!!!!!!!!!


    Now shut up already!

    November 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  22. Jim J

    Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA – Gore won the popular vote by 543,895. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT. Popular vote is irrelevant when we have electoral anyway.

    November 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |



    YES WE DID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    November 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. Roger from CA

    Good Lord! Give it up!!!! The campaign is done, your guy lost. Stop with the fear-mongering.

    Of course there are risks, but, last I checked, GWB is the President until the instant at noon on January 20, 2009, that Obama takes the oath of office. Presumably GWB and his team (including you, Michael) remain on the job and vigilant to all threats. That's what you knuckleheads are there for!

    Obama and team will be working on the transition. Sure, you will need to meet with your replacements at times, but I have a funny feeling that isn't going to be all that time-consuming or distracting.

    November 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Well, that would be convenient, now wouldn't it? Then Bush could declare martial law and suspend his outing of office. :p

    November 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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