Chertoff, Michael, 1953–, U.S. government official, b. Elizabeth, N.J., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1975, J.D., 1978). A lawyer, Chertoff was an assistant federal prosecutor in New York (1983–87) and New Jersey (1987–90) before becoming U.S. attorney for New Jersey (1990–94). Subsequently in private practice, he also served (1994–96) as special counsel to the U.S. Senate committee that investigated Whitewater. Under President George W. Bush, he was (2001–3) assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Dept.'s criminal division, where, after the Sept., 2001, terror attacks, he advocated expanding government powers to deal with terrorism, including detaining terror suspects without charging them by declaring them
material witnesses.That policy became especially controversial when most such detainees were subsequently not linked to terrorist groups. Appointed to the federal appeals bench in 2003, Chertoff returned to the executive branch (2005–9) as President Bush's homeland security secretary, succeeding Tom Ridge. Chertoff's, and his department's, response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina (2005) were criticized in a 2006 congressional report.
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