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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

EDITORIAL: Home Security Czar Kerik Bad Choice

The Department of Homeland Security has been a disputed organization since its creation after September 11. Though Tom Ridge (the first chief of the Department of Homeland Security) worked behind the scenes to set up and consolidate the department’s power, his only visible creation was a crude color-coded chart which served to let terrorists know how unprepared and freaked out we were and should be, respectively, on any given day. Don’t even start on the Duct Tape Incident. A clearly worn-out Ridge, while declaring that America is safe from terrorism, has stepped down from his position and resigned from the Bush Cabinet in order to, in an old Washington D.C. saying, spend more time with his family.

Incoming is Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner whose first anti-terrorism job was as a private security contractor in Saudi Arabia. Kerik’s past is unusual, for lack of a better term, providing a narrative the media often craves. His mother was an alcoholic prostitute killed by her pimp, his dad a deadbeat. Kerik, a high school dropout, was stationed in Korea for a while, leaving in 1976 after impregnating a woman there. Joining the NYPD in 1986, he walked the beat in Times Square. Mayor Rudolph Guliani appointed him police commissioner in 2000. The main question that arises is whether or not Kerik is qualified to take over protecting the country from terrorism as the second homeland security czar. In 2001 he supervised the NYPD’s response to 9/11 and was often seen at the side of then-Mayor Giuliani. Most recently Kerik took a temporary position in Iraq helping rebuild the war-torn country’s police force. It is there where a closer look should be taken.

As the New York Post has noted, Kerik’s time in Iraq was the one part of his life President Bush skipped over in his announcement of Kerik’s appointment. Kerik left Iraq three months after getting there, in the middle of what was supposed to be, at the very least, a six-month tour. “Though Kerik presided over the hiring of thousands of recruits for the reconstituted Iraqi police force, most were hired without background checks, and many turned out to be hardened criminals,” the Post said. “As a result, some 30,000 of them, or roughly 25 percent of the entire force, are now reportedly being let go, with the U.S. footing the bill for $60 million in severance payments.” Kerik’s time there remains, for the most part, a mystery.

Also troubling is that he, apparently channeling former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, reportedly told Newsweek last year, “Political criticism is our enemies’ best friend.”

The Department of Homeland Security is a multitude of federal agencies that have been put under the command of one person. After three years, they are still having problems communicating and working together. The position requires someone with an intimate knowledge of at least some of the agencies that are constantly competing for attention and funds, and an intimate knowledge of Washington D.C. With a spotty record in Iraq and lack of political experience, Kerik doesn’t seem to be that someone.