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. Phil in KC

    Well, I could just say that Chertoff is stating the obvious. Or I could be rather snide and wonder aloud if he's trying to inject a little job security. But in the interest of the prevailing atmosphere, I don't think I'll do that.

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



    November 5, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Vera, PA

    Oh please, he just wants to keep his job. Maybe the DHS needs new blood.

    November 5, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  4. rob

    I never trusted this man–he's still got fear mongering on his agenda

    November 5, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  5. Nick the Photographer

    How would a republican respond to this statement if it came from a Democrat? "Why don't you just give the terrorist the blueprints to the next attack Chertoff! You don't say that out loud!"

    November 5, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. Unite

    He's just doing his job. Give the guy a break.

    November 5, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. Naomi

    My thing is, why does America operate on fear? Everytime we do something good, it seems as if it is always overshadowed by something bad. Obama will do something in this country that hasn't been done before. He will bring true change. Now if McCain/Palin, that would be a totally different thing.

    November 5, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Julia

    We're not afraid, Mr. Chertoff. You'll be replaced and Joe Lieberman can sit with the Republicans.

    November 5, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. Barbara, NC


    You sound like a spoiled brat. The change has already started or haven't you noticed. He ran one of the greatest campaigns in this country's history, and he's going to do greater things. Chill.

    November 5, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. KLEE

    No surprises here.

    Obama is a wise man and will do the right thing. He is serious and will be serious. Don't whine – work on the problem – I'm sure that will be his philosophy.

    Obama won by a landslide and there is a reason for that!

    November 5, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Barbara, NC

    Dear Carol,

    The only thing Barack has to hop to is planning a HUGE inauguration. He's not president yet, so you hop to it.

    Obama/Biden 08

    November 5, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Casey

    "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?"

    I noticed a lot of people claiming everyone should support President Bush are now days saying the exact opposite. President-elect Obama is a centrist, it's horrible to think 46% of the country is so inflexible they can not ever change. This is a wonderful day for America, I'm sorry some of you can't support your country.

    November 5, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  13. Capt America

    Please stop making national security about political parties!

    I have faught in both theatres and have gazed in the black souless eyes of al queda fighters and have even tried to talk with them (doesn't work).

    Fact #1: They want to go back to the time of the prophet and recreate the world as such. This means no liberties for anyone.... they view technology as evil (unless of course it is a weapon that can kill one of us)

    Fact #2: Diplomacy will not work, they have been brain washed since thier inception. Imagine talking to the most racist person in America and multiply that by 10. That is how far you will get through talking.

    Fact #3: This war, even though it is not a traditional linear fight, will be long and continue during Obama's 8 years and after.

    Can both liberals and righties unite on one thing? Please stand against islamic terrorism. It is not a joke or "fear tactic" it is real.

    November 5, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  14. CAT

    I have never seen a bunch of cry babies as those speaking out for the Republican party these days. They condemn this man Obama who has not even had a chance to try and save their hides. I am glad Chertoff is on his way out. This administration can't leave too soon in my book. The corruption and malfeasance of the Bush administration will take years to clean up. Those who speak up defending Bushes administration, sit down, shut up, you had your turn, now respect the man who won the office and give him a chance. After the damage Bush has done, you’re going to need it.

    November 5, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. Pepou

    Go on ! Give us the fear card again and again. You have lost, lost, lost. We can take of ourselves, thank you.

    November 5, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  16. Craeg fr Canada

    Im sure that the threat of an atach upon the US is still present. I think that the new president, because he is smart, will realize that terrorism is fought with police/intelligence type activities, not 500 pound bombs.
    As for those who are still ranting about socialism I hope that you will practice some 'critical analysis' of the material you have been reading, recognize that your society is already riddled with important 'social democratic' policies and structures, and remember that the US ellects a President not a dictator. The only scarey thing about pres-elect Obama is the fear that some of you have of him.

    November 5, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Why So Partisan?

    I don't understand why everybody here is trying to politicize this article.

    (VP-elect) Biden said pretty much the EXACT same thing as Chertoff a few weeks ago. And nobody accused him of being a fear-mongerer.

    The election's over, the left won. That doesn't mean there aren't threats out there. And it doesn't mean that preparing for those threats is trying to undercut the next administration.

    November 5, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. aware

    We were warned by Biden!

    American money and media did buy a president, and Russia did present the stealth president elect with his first test!

    And Hillary blew her best chance!

    But look to the future! POTUS is not a permanent job!

    Sarah Palin 2012 and /or 2016! She is an authentic reformer and will be well prepared to be POTUS in either 4 or 8 years!

    November 5, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. Susan, ME

    Dear America,

    I understand that McCain and Palin supporters are sore loser. This will be a day for them to vent. So let them vent on, and when they're through, we can talk.

    Senator McCain gave an excellent speech last night and I think his supporters should follow his lead.

    November 5, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Lyndon,CA

    Leslie Sanchez for Homeland Secretary, that way border control will be effective.

    November 5, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. Darrell

    Exactly what Biden had already told us.This is a very real concern and the best person will be in office to handle the situation. 80 % of the world feels safer already knowing it is Obama that will be handling any crisis. It is time for talking and democracy,and Obama is the right person for the job !

    November 5, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. Roy , Cambridge MA

    What's that Rick Perry (Gov. of Texas) said ? "See you later mo fo !"

    Maybe Chertoff can go scare some people at the retirement home.

    November 5, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. aware

    Obama's mother and grandmother both died of cancer so don't be too quick to talk about health! 😦

    November 5, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. Steve C.

    Mister Katrina (chertoff) has no clothes (just like the king!)
    so he should sit down and leave quietly...

    November 5, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  25. Josh

    I agree with AJ. I may not be thrilled with Bush, but Dems are hypocrites too and cant even get the right to life correct for an innocent baby.

    Ride high on the hog now Obama, our day to overwhelmingly despise you is just around the corner.

    Dems make up for 8 years of Bush by voting for an inexperienced, naive, arrogant, closet-racist and then say they hope to "unite" the country. If you wanted to "unite" you should have nominated and elected someone more moderate; more division than ever is coming to this nation.

    No leadership, No experience, No hope, NObama!

    November 5, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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