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Profile: Bernard Kerik
Positions that Bernard Kerik has held:
Bernard Kerik was a participant or observer in the following events:
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is located in World Trade Center Building 7, organizes a bio-terrorism drill where militant extremists attack the city with bubonic plague and Manhattan is quarantined. The “tabletop exercise” is called RED Ex—meaning “Recognition, Evaluation, and Decision-Making Exercise”
—and involves about seventy different entities, agencies, and locales from the New York area. Federal legislation adopted in 1997 requires federal, state, and local authorities to conduct regular exercises as part of the Domestic Preparedness Program (DPP). The US Defense Department chose New York City as the venue for RED Ex due to its size, prominence, and level of emergency preparedness. Various high-level officials take part, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OEM Director Richard Sheirer, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Agencies and organizations that participate include New York City Fire Department, New York City Police Department, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The exercise is supposedly so intense that, according to one participant, “five minutes into that drill, everybody forgot it was a drill.”
[New York City Government, 5/11/2001; New York City Government, 9/5/2001, pp. 74 ; New York Sun, 12/20/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] According to OEM Director Richard Sheirer, “Operation RED Ex provided a proving ground and a great readiness training exercise for the many challenges the city routinely faces, such as weather events, heat emergencies, building collapses, fires, and public safety and health issues.”
[New York City Government, 5/11/2001] In his prepared testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Bernard Kerik later states: “The City, through its OEM, had coordinated plans for many types of emergencies; and those plans were tested frequently.” The types of emergencies they prepared for, he states, included “building collapses” and “plane crashes.”
[9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] Considering Richard Sheirer’s comments, RED Ex appears to be one example where the city tests for building collapses. Details about training for airplanes crashing into New York City remain unknown. The second part of this exercise, called Tripod, is scheduled to take place in New York on September 12, 2001, but is cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks.
Rudolph Giuliani. [Source: Publicity photo]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is promptly informed of the first WTC crash while having breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel on 55th Street. He later claims that he goes outside and, noticing the clear sky, immediately concludes, “It could not have been an accident, that it had to have been an attack. But we weren’t sure whether it was a planned terrorist attack, or maybe some kind of act of individual anger or insanity.” Only after the second plane hits at 9:03 will he be convinced it is terrorism. After leaving the hotel, he quickly proceeds south. In his 2002 book, Leadership, he will claim that he heads for his emergency command center. This $13 million center is located on the 23rd floor of Building 7 of the WTC, and was opened by Giuliani in 1999, specifically for coordinating responses to emergencies, including terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). Referring to it, he writes, “As shocking as [the first] crash was, we had actually planned for just such a catastrophe.” At around 9:07 a.m., Giuliani meets Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik at Barclay Street, on the northern border of the WTC complex. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 7] Yet they do not go to the command center. According to Kerik, “The Mayor and I… determined early on that the City’s pre-designated Command and Control Center… was unsafe because of its proximity to the attack.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] Instead, they head to West Street, where the fire department has set up a command post, and arrive there at around 9:20 a.m. However, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, Giuliani will apparently change his story, claiming he’d never even headed for his command center in the first place. He says, “Even if the Emergency Operations Center had been available, I would not have gone there for an hour or an hour and a half. I would want to spend some time at the actual incident, at operations command posts.” [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 44-45 and 340-341] Other accounts indicate that the emergency command center is mostly abandoned from the outset, with emergency managers instead heading to the North Tower (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
According to the accounts of numerous witnesses on the ground near the World Trade Center, military fighter jets are first noticed flying over Manhattan either shortly before or soon after the second collapse, at 10:28 a.m. Some witnesses recall fighters arriving just before this collapse:
Emergency medical technicians Dulce McCorvey and Michael D’Angelo hear fighters flying over Manhattan at unspecified times after the first tower’s collapse. [City of New York, 10/3/2001; City of New York, 10/24/2001]
Fire Lieutenant Sean O’Malley and firefighters Pete Giudetti and Dan Potter notice jet fighters flying overhead soon before the second collapse. [City of New York, 10/12/2001; City of New York, 12/6/2001; Smith, 2002, pp. 49-50]
Other witnesses say the fighters arrive soon after this collapse:
Deputy Fire Chief Robert Browne, police officer Peter Moog, and emergency medical technicians Richard Zarrillo and Jason Katz notice fighters overhead immediately after, or fairly soon after, the second tower’s collapse. [City of New York, 10/24/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 12/20/2001; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 79-80]
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer are heading north together after leaving their temporary command post on Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In some accounts, all three of them recollect hearing the first military jets overhead soon after the second tower’s collapse. [Kerik, 2001, pp. 339-340; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] However, according to another account, Giuliani hears the first jet slightly earlier, at around 10:20 a.m. And, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Kerik claims to have heard a fighter jet coming when he was heading to the temporary command post on Barclay Street, i.e. shortly before 9:50 a.m. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 348-349]
A few witnesses claim the fighters arrive earlier on, before the first collapse at 9:59 a.m.:
Emergency medical technician Frank Puma and Port Authority Freedom of Information Administrator Cathy Pavelec say they see fighter jets overhead at unspecified times before the first collapse. [City of New York, 12/12/2001; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 68]
The fighter(s) are presumably the F-15s launched from Otis Air Force Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will claim that these arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is significantly earlier than most of the witnesses on the ground recall.
Entity Tags: Dulce McCorvey, Jason Katz, Frank Puma, Dan Potter, Sean O’Malley, Pete Giudetti, Peter Moog, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Robert Browne, Richard Sheirer, Michael D’Angelo, Cathy Pavelec, Richard Zarrillo, Bernard Kerik
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
After spending about 40 minutes at the disaster scene, on the World Trade Center site, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani relocates to a small office building at 75 Barclay Street, about two blocks from the WTC, hoping to establish a command post there. His usual command center, in WTC 7, was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). With him are several colleagues, including Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer. [Kerik, 2001, pp. 334; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 10; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 10] While at Barclay Street, Giuliani is able to get in touch with the White House, and speaks to Chris Henick, the deputy political director to President Bush (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Immediately afterwards, he receives a phone call from Vice President Cheney, though this is cut off before either one is able to speak. Giuliani also claims he is given advance warning of the South Tower’s collapse while at this command post (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After the South Tower collapses outside, Giuliani and his colleagues all decide to evacuate, going through the basement into a neighboring building, 100 Church Street. They will then leave this and head north, being joined by cameras and press. [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 112; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 348]
Bernard Kerik. [Source: Publicity photo]After leaving 75 Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), New York City Mayor Giuliani and the group accompanying him search for somewhere to establish a new temporary headquarters. Soon after the North Tower’s collapse, they break into a vacant firehouse at the corner of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue. Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who is part of the group, wants the location kept secret. He gives out the order, “Okay, we’re going to establish a command center [here]. We’re not going to let anybody know. I don’t want it over the radio. We don’t know what’s happening. We don’t want them [presumably meaning the attackers] to know where we’re all going to be.” Giuliani is able to find a phone, and speaks with New York Governor George Pataki, the White House, and the Defense Department. At around 10:57, he speaks to the television channel New York 1 and offers a message of reassurance to the people of New York City. [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 108; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 15-16; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 13] Deciding that they need to be somewhere larger and more secure, Kerik suggests they move to the Police Academy on East 20th Street. [Kerik, 2001, pp. 342] Thus, Giuliani’s group—which now numbers more than twenty people plus a press contingent—gets into cars and drives to the academy, arriving around midday. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 18-19; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 13] This will remain as the city’s command center for several days, until it is replaced later in the week by a larger space at Pier 92 on the Hudson River. [Center for Biosecurity, 2/3/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
Barry Mawn. [Source: Associated Press]On September 13, New York authorities take into custody ten people of Middle Eastern descent at JFK International and La Guardia Airports, reportedly fearing they intend to hijack aircraft and commit another suicidal terrorist attack on a US target. This leads to all three major New York-area airports—JFK, La Guardia, and Newark—being abruptly shut down, just hours after they reopened for the first time since the 9/11 attacks took place. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001]
Armed and Carrying False ID - According to the Washington Post, the detained individuals are carrying knives and false identification. [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Four of them are reportedly arrested as they try to board a flight from JFK Airport to Los Angeles, and a woman is held on suspicion of assisting these four. Some of the four are reported as having pilots’ certificates from Flight Safety International in Vero Beach, Florida, where some of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are currently believed to have taken flying lessons. Later on, the other five men are arrested at La Guardia Airport “under similar circumstances.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001] According to the New York Times, “Law enforcement officials said one of those held was carrying a false pilot’s identification.” Furthermore, several of the detained men “showed up at the airport with tickets for flights canceled on Tuesday [September 11] and tried to use them.” Investigators say they believe one of the men had been among a group of passengers that behaved suspiciously and became aggressive after their aircraft—United Airlines Flight 23—had its takeoff canceled on the morning of 9/11 (see (After 9:19 a.m.) September 11, 2001). New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says one of the men arrested at JFK Airport “attempted to clear security and he was stopped.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001]
Men Released, No Connections Found to 9/11 Attacks - However, the following morning the FBI announces that none of the detainees had any connection to the 9/11 attacks, and all but one of them have been released. Barry Mawn, the head of the New York FBI office, says: “The reporting that has been going on all night, I can definitively tell you, is inaccurate.… [W]e did talk to approximately a dozen individuals. We have only one individual left who is still being questioned by the task force. All other ten have been released.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; PBS, 9/14/2001] Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker says that no knives, box cutters, guns, or other weapons were found on the individuals. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001] After talking to the directors of the FBI and CIA, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) tells CNN that the detained men had “no connection whatsoever to what happened at the World Trade towers or the Pentagon, or this organizational network.” He explains: “One guy, an actual pilot, got on the plane, coincidentally had his brother’s identification as well. His brother happened to live in the apartment complex that was one in Boston where some of [the alleged hijackers] had actually been.” Biden adds: “Ten other people were going to a Boeing conference. They had stickers on their bags.… The folks at the airport thought, hey, wait a minute, are they impersonating crew? And they weren’t.” Biden says the one man who has not yet been released “was a screwball who was acting out, you know, acting out and saying and demanding.… Making problems, and they arrested him.” By 11:20 a.m. on September 14, the three New York-area airports are reopened. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001]
It is reported that a federal grand jury has been convened in White Plains, New York, to investigate the 9/11 attacks. The grand jury, said to have begun meeting a few days earlier, will be able to issue subpoenas. New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says it won’t be the only 9/11-related grand jury: “You’re going to see things like the grand jury in White Plains. You’re going to see grand juries around the country, perhaps, looking into matters pertaining to this investigation.” White Plains is part of the federal court system’s Southern District of New York, which has historically led all investigations related to bin Laden. [Associated Press, 9/18/2001] On October 22, 2001, the Wall Street Journal will report, “The federal grand jury investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is casting a wide net, seeking information from witnesses about their contacts with the 19 hijackers as well as other suspected terrorists,” and it will detail some of the witnesses appearing before the grand jury. [Wall Street Journal, 10/22/2001] However, thorough searches of the Lexis-Nexus database show no further mention of this grand jury, or any other 9/11-related grand juries. In early October 2001, the Justice Department will take over all 9/11 related prosecutions (see October 11, 2001).
Soon after leaving his office of mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani opens a consulting company, Giuliani Partners, specializing in security issues. According to a 2007 report, it will earn more than $100 million over the next five years, making Giuliani a wealthy man. Giuliani selects several long-time associates as business partners, including Michael D. Hess, a former corporation counsel for the city of New York and now the senior managing partner of the firm. (Hess was rescued from WTC7 before its collapse.) Giuliani also hires his former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, despite warnings that Kerik has ties to organized crime figures. Kerik will later be convicted of tax fraud. Some of the firm’s clients will prove controversial. Seisint Inc., a data-mining software company, was advised by Giuliani Partners on how to do business with the federal and state governments. In 2003, press reports will reveal that Seisint’s founder, Hank Asher, is a confessed cocaine smuggler and that Giuliani had touted the company in public speeches without disclosing his financial relationship with Asher. Giuliani also joins a Texas law firm named Blackwell & Patterson, which is then renamed Blackwell & Giuliani. Blackwell is involved in the litigation surrounding both the 2000 and 2004 elections, which were marred by allegations of voting irregularities and fraud. Giuliani’s business deals will prove to be a source of controversy and criticism during his 2007-08 presidential bid. [Washington Post, 5/13/2007; Vanity Fair, 1/1/2008]
The Justice Department decides that Iraq needs around 6,600 foreign advisers to rehabilitate and rebuild its police forces. The White House sends one person: former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik. [Washington Post, 9/17/2006] In film shot for a 2007 documentary, No End in Sight, Kerik will recall: “First week May I was contacted by the White House… would I meet with Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld… to discuss policing policies in Iraq.… [W]e discussed basically the Ministry of the Interior and reconstitution of the Interior, what the Interior consisted of, what the prior offices were, estimated number of police, and border controls. Some information they had, some they didn’t.” Reporter Michael Moss will continue in the footage (which is cut from the final version of the documentary): “They saw in Bernie a quick fix.… [H]e had 10 days to prepare… hadn’t been to Iraq; knew little about it; and in part, prepared for the job by watching A&E documentaries on Saddam Hussein.” [New York Post, 12/14/2007]
9/11 Star - Kerik is considered a star. Made famous by his efforts in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks (see (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001), he is asked for his autograph by soldiers and constantly pressed for interviews by reporters. President Bush considers Kerik the perfect man to take over Iraq’s Interior Ministry and rebuild the shattered Iraqi police forces. His previous experience in the Middle East is dubious—as security director for a government hospital in Saudi Arabia, he had been expelled as part of an investigation into his surveillance of the medical staff.
Others Too Liberal - He also lacks any experience in postwar policing, but White House officials view this as an asset. The veterans the White House is familiar with lack the committment to establishing a democracy in Iraq, they feel. Those with experience—post-conflict experts with the State Department, the United Nations, or non-governmental organizations—are viewed as too liberal. Kerik is a solidly conservative Republican with an unwavering loyalty to the Bush administration and a loud advocate of democracy in Iraq. Author Rajiv Chandrasekaran will later write: “With Kerik, there were bonuses: The media loved him, and the American public trusted him.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2006]
White House 'Eyes and Ears' - Kerik will quickly make clear one of his top priorities as Iraq’s new police chief: according to one subordinate, he will frequently remind his underlings that he is the Bush administration’s “eyes and ears” in Iraq. [TPM Muckraker, 11/9/2007]
Bernard Kerik in the Green Zone, July 2003. [Source: Associated Press / Dario Lopez-Mills]Former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, the newly appointed head of Iraq’s Interior Ministry and the man chosen to rebuild Iraq’s police forces (see Early May, 2003), does not make a strong impression on the State Department’s Robert Gifford, a senior adviser to the Interior Ministry and an expert on international law enforcement. Kerik is in Iraq to take over Gifford’s job. He tells Gifford that his main function is to “bring more media attention to the good work on police,” and he doubts “the situation is… as bad as people think it is.” When Gifford briefs Kerik, he quickly realizes that Kerik isn’t listening. “He didn’t listen to anything,” Gifford will later recall. “He hadn’t read anything except his e-mails. I don’t think he read a single one of our proposals.” Kerik is not in Baghdad to do the heavy lifting of leading the rebuilding. He intends to leave that to Gifford. Kerik will brief American officials and reporters. And, he says, he will go out on some law enforcement missions himself. Kerik garners much network air time by telling reporters that he has assessed the situation in Iraq and it is improving. Security in Baghdad, he says, “is not as bad as I thought. Are bad things going on? Yes. But is it out of control? No. Is it getting better? Yes.” He tells a Time reporter that “people are starting to feel more confident. They’re coming back out. Markets and shops that I saw closed one week ago have opened.” Kerik parades around the Green Zone with a team of South African mercenaries as his personal bodyguard force, and packs a 9mm handgun under his safari vest.
Ignoring Basic Processes - The first few months after the overthrow of the Hussein government are a critical time. Police officers need to be called back to work and screened for Ba’ath Party connections. They must be retrained in due process, in legal (non-torture) interrogation procedures, and other basic law enforcement procedures. New police chiefs need to be selected. Tens of thousands of new police officers must be hired and trained. But Kerik has no interest in any of this. He only holds two staff meetings, and one of these is a show for a New York Times reporter. Kerik secures no funding for police advisers. He leaves the chores of organizing and training Iraqi police officers to US military policemen, most of whom have no training in civilian law enforcement. Gerald Burke, a former Massachusetts State Police commander who participated in the initial Justice Department assessment mission, will later say: “He was the wrong guy at the wrong time. Bernie didn’t have the skills. What we needed was a chief executive-level person.… Bernie came in with a street-cop mentality.”
Night Adventures - What Kerik does do is organize a hundred-man Iraqi police paramilitary unit to chase down and kill off members of the black market criminal syndicates that have sprung up after the invasion. He often joins the group on nighttime raids, leaving the Green Zone at midnight and returning at dawn, appearing at CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer’s morning staff meetings to regale his audience with tales of the night’s adventures. Kerik’s hit squad does put a few car-theft and kidnapping gangs out of business, and Kerik makes sure to get plenty of press coverage for these successes. But he leaves the daily work of rebuilding the Iraqi police to others: he sleeps during the day so he can go out at night. Many members of the Interior Ministry become increasingly distressed at Kerik’s antics and his systematic ignorance of his duties, but realize that they can do nothing. “Bremer’s staff thought he was the silver bullet,” a member of the Justice Department assessment mission will later say. “Nobody wanted to question the [man who was] police chief during 9/11.” When Kerik leaves three months later, virtually nothing has been done to rebuild Iraq’s police forces. (Kerik will blame others for the failures, saying he was given insufficient funds to hire police advisers or to establish large-scale training programs.) He will later recall his service in Baghdad: “I was in my own world. I did my own thing.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2006]
'Irresponsible' - In 2007, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will say that Kerik was “irresponsible” in his tenure as head of Iraq’s Interior Ministry (see November 9, 2007). “Kerik was supposed to be there to help train the police force,” McCain will say. “He stayed two months and one day left, just up and left.” [Associated Press, 11/9/2007]
Judith Regan (left) and Roger Ailes. [Source: Business Insider]Roger Ailes, a powerful Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988) and the founder and chairman of Fox News (see October 7, 1996), becomes embroiled in a legal conflict involving former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and his mistress, Judith Regan, a book editor for another arm of Fox News’s parent company News Corporation (NewsCorp). Ailes learns that Kerik has commandeered an apartment overlooking the site of the devastated World Trade Center, intended for the use of rescue and recovery workers, as a “love nest” for his trysts with Regan. Ailes is a close friend and political ally of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who recommended Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik is already being pilloried in the press for a number of other ethical and perhaps even criminal activities, and is being vetted for the DHS slot. Ailes and Giuliani do not want the Kerik-Regan affair, and the commandeered apartment, to come to the public’s notice. Court documents later say that Ailes “told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign.” Ailes “advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, [federal] investigators concerning Kerik.” The attempted cover-up will later be brought to light when NewsCorp fires Regan in 2006, and she brings a wrongful-termination suit that secures a $10.75 million settlement. Regan will not identify Ailes by name, only as a “senior executive” for NewsCorp, but other documents accidentally made public will reveal Ailes’s identity. Reportedly, Regan has her telephone conversations with Ailes on tape. NewsCorp will later claim that Regan has sent it a letter stating that “Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.” Regan’s lawyer will say that NewsCorp’s claim does not reflect the entirety of Regan’s letter. Kerik himself will withdraw his name from consideration, and will later be sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud. [New Republic, 2/24/2011; New York Daily News, 2/24/2011; New York Times, 2/25/2011; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]
The first of two days of 9/11 Commission hearings in New York is overshadowed by a row between commissioner John Lehman and two subordinates of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. Despite Giuliani’s hero status after the attacks, the Commission’s staff discovered serious errors in New York’s preparations for a potential terrorist attack before 9/11 (see Before May 17, 2004), but realized the commissioners had to be sensitive in how these errors were handled in public (see May 17, 2004).
Aggressive Beginning - When Lehman has his turn to put questions to a panel, he makes an aggressive beginning, saying that New York’s police, fire, and Port Authority police departments are the finest in the world but also “the proudest,” and adds, “But pride runneth before the fall.” He then calls the command, control, and communications “a scandal,” and says the emergency response system was “not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city.” This draws some applause from the crowd and Lehman adds: “I think it’s a scandal that the fire commissioner has no line authority. It’s a scandal that there’s nobody that has clear line authority and accountability for a crisis of the magnitude that we’re going to have to deal with in the years ahead. It’s a scandal that after laboring for eight years, the city comes up with a plan for incident management that simply puts in concrete this clearly dysfunctional system.”
Counterattack - Kerik and Von Essen, both now partners in Giuliani’s consulting firm, push back. Von Essen says: “I couldn’t disagree with you more. I think that one of the criticisms of this committee has been statements like you just made, talking about scandalous procedures and scandalous operations and rules and everything else. There’s nothing scandalous about the way that New York City handles its emergencies.… You make it sound like everything was wrong about September 11th or the way we function. I think it’s outrageous that you make a statement like that.” Kerik and Von Essen also make similar comments for the press after the hearing, when Von Essen calls Lehman’s questioning “despicable” and adds, “If I had the opportunity, I probably would have choked him because that’s what he deserved.”
Chance to Meaningfully Question Giuliani Lost - The commissioners and the Commission’s staff immediately realize Lehman has destroyed any chance the Commission had of getting to the bottom of why things went badly with the emergency response in New York on 9/11. Author Philip Shenon will comment: “Any hope of forcing Giuliani to answer hard questions the next day had evaporated. The dynamic would now turn in Giuliani’s favor.”
Lehman Claims He Was Set Up - According to Shenon: “[Lehman] was certain he had been set up by Kerik and Von Essen on behalf of Giuliani. He suspected they had come to the hearing with a script. They were waiting for the right question from one of the commissioners that would allow them to launch a pre-scripted fusillade of insults back at the Commission, turning the hearing into an us-versus-them fight that the city’s tabloids would devour.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 351-354]
President Bush nominates former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security, replacing outgoing DHS head Tom Ridge. Kerik is a close friend and political ally of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who pushed Kerik for the position. Kerik also actively campaigned for Bush in the recent presidential campaign. “Bernie Kerik is one of the most accomplished and effective leaders of law enforcement in America,” Bush says. “In every position, he has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice, a heart for the innocent, and a record of great success. I’m grateful he’s agreed to bring his lifetime of security experience and skill to one of the most important positions in the American government.” Kerik recently returned from a stint in Iraq, where he trained Iraqi police officials (see May 2003 - July 2003). Kerik was also in charge of New York City police activities during the 9/11 attacks (see (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001). Kerik says: “I know what is at stake. On September 11, 2001, I witnessed firsthand the very worst of humanity and the very best.… I saw hatred claim the lives of 2,400 innocent people, and I saw the bravest men and women I will ever know rescue more than 20,000 others.” Bush says of Kerik: “He was there when the Twin Towers collapsed—he knew the faces of the rescuers who rushed toward danger, he attended the funerals for the officers who didn’t come back. Bernie Kerik understands the duties that came to America on September 11. The resolve he felt that morning will guide him every day on his job and every first responder defending our homeland will have a faithful ally in Bernie Kerik.” Congressional Republicans laud Kerik’s nomination. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees DHS, calls Kerik a “strong candidate” for the post. “He knows first hand the challenges this country faces in guarding against terrorist attacks,” Collins says. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) calls Kerik “the perfect choice for the job,” and goes on to say: “There is no doubt that Bernie is a strong, no-nonsense manager who is intimately familiar with the homeland security mission. The new standing Committee on Homeland Security will work closely with him to build on the strong foundations laid by Tom Ridge to secure America against terrorism.” Some Democrats, including Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), also praise Kerik’s nomination. “Coming from New York, Bernie Kerik knows the great needs and challenges this country faces in homeland security,” Schumer says. “He has a strong law enforcement background and I believe will do an excellent job in fighting for the resources and focus that homeland security needs and deserves in our post-9/11 world.” Kerik’s biggest drawback as the choice to head DHS may be his lack of experience in managing a federal bureaucracy, some observers say. Former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safire says of Kerik: “Bernie is a very good operational person, he knows how to run the operation. What he needs to learn and what he’s going to need help with is the Washington bureaucracy.” DHS is an umbrella department overseeing and managing 22 separate federal agencies and some 200,000 employees and contract workers. [New York Times, 12/2/2004; Fox News, 12/3/2004; McClellan, 2008, pp. 245-246] “People here are waiting to find out who this guy is and what changes he’ll bring,” says an anonymous Homeland Security senior official. “He’s really an unknown factor here in Washington.” [New York Times, 12/4/2004] In 2008, Scott McClellan, the current White House press secretary, will describe DHS as “still in its infancy and still struggling to define its identity,” and will call it a “vast, unwieldy agglomeration of dozens of formerly independent agencies, now bundled together under one name, and with a new focus (physical threats to the American ‘homeland’) that sometimes contradicted the old mandates. Homeland Security was hampered by bureaucratic infighting, incredibly complex coordination challenges, and slumping employee morale.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 245-246] Less than two weeks later, Kerik will withdraw his name from consideration, ostensibly over a problem with an illegal immigrant he hired to babysit his children (see December 13, 2004), though some believe his withdrawal is spurred by the media’s interest in his business dealings (see December 9-10, 2004).
Some are quietly expressing criticism or a lack of surety about the recent nomination of former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS—see December 3, 2004). The New York Times questions Kerik’s qualifications for the post and what it calls “some troubling parts of his record.” The Times says, “A homeland security secretary should be above politics and respectful of civil liberties,” and that Kerik is neither, as he campaigned for the reelection of President George W. Bush, and suggested that criticism of the Iraq War was tantamount to aiding the enemy, and that the election of Kerry would result in a terrorist attack. It is also unclear why Kerik abruptly left Iraq in the summer of 2003, just when he should have been settling into his new job of training security forces (see May 2003 - July 2003). The Times says the public should know more about Kerik’s duties at Giuliani-Kerik LLC, a consulting firm Kerik operates with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and raises questions about potential conflicts of interest: “Mr. Kerik should offer assurances that former clients and colleagues will not get preferential treatment. He has had difficulty with ethical lines in the past. In 2002, he paid a fine for using a police sergeant and two detectives to research his autobiography.” The Times also notes Kerik’s “enormously profitable” stint as a board member of Taser International, the stun-gun manufacturer, saying this deserves scrutiny. [New York Times, 12/9/2004] Kerik will be doing business with some of the firms that made him wealthy, Times reporter Eric Lipton observes, particularly Taser International, even though he has promised to resign from that firm’s board of directors and sell his remaining stock if he is confirmed as DHS secretary. The price of Taser stock has risen sharply in recent months, largely because Kerik has done an excellent job of pitching the company’s product to police departments around the country. Kerik has also led the push to bring federal business to Taser, including contracts offered by DHS. Taser president Thomas Smith says: “Anyone in a federal law enforcement position is a potential customer. And we are going to continue to go after that business.” Kerik refuses to discuss his position with Taser with the press. Bush administration spokesman Brian Besanceney promises Kerik will adhere to “the highest ethical standards” and ensure there are no conflicts of interest. “In order to avoid even an appearance of a conflict, he will comply with all ethics laws and rules to avoid acts that might affect former clients or organizations where he served as a director,” Besanceney says. Under Kerik, the New York Police Department became one of the first departments in the country to purchase large amounts of Taser stun guns. [New York Times, 12/10/2004]
Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, withdraws his name from consideration to become the nation’s next head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS—see December 3, 2004). Kerik says he found information showing that a woman he had hired as a housekeeper and nanny was an illegal immigrant; DHS oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Kerik says that the discovery prompted him to withdraw his name from consideration. In a letter to President Bush, Kerik writes that although it is “the honor of a lifetime” to be nominated to head the department, “I am convinced that, for personal reasons, moving forward would not be in the best interests of your administration, the Department of Homeland Security, or the American people.… I uncovered information that now leads me to question the immigration status of a person who had been in my employ as a housekeeper and nanny. It has also been brought to my attention that for a period of time during such employment required tax payments and related filings had not been made.” He says that he cannot allow personal matters to “distract from the focus and progress of the Department of Homeland Security and its crucial endeavors.”
Questionable Stock Transactions May Be behind Kerik's Withdrawal - Some Democrats believe that the real reason for Kerik’s withdrawal may be questions about his involvement with Taser International, a stun gun company that does business with DHS; Kerik recently made $6.2 million by exercising stock options in that firm (see December 9-10, 2004). Kerik’s close friend and business colleague, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, says of Kerik’s choice: “I’m disappointed that this had to happen, but I think it’s the right decision, the only decision given the kind of issue that’s involved here. I don’t think this would be as major an issue if it were a different department of government.… When an issue like this emerges, it makes it impossible to go forward.” Kerik’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, says Kerik is the one who decided to withdraw his name. “It was Bernie Kerik who uncovered this [the information about the nanny] on his own. He brought it to the White House,” says Tacopina. “He wanted to put the country first. He didn’t want to distract the president and distract the important mission that Homeland Security has.” As he withdraws his name from consideration, Kerik has still not completed his ethics filings, which will disclose his sources of income and financial liabilities, and the FBI has not yet completed its background investigation of him. [Associated Press, 12/13/2004; New York Times`, 12/13/2004] A Democratic Senate staff member says he is unsure whether the nanny issue is the only reason why Kerik withdrew his name from consideration. “Multiple media organizations were pursuing multiple stories” that would be potentially damaging to Kerik, the staffer says. Because many of these questions had not yet been answered by the administration, “fundamentally, he was a bad pick.… The process worked here.” [New York Times, 12/12/2004] The press has begun looking into other aspects of Kerik’s financial life, including the possibility that Kerik, while serving as police commissioner, helped a close friend, Frank DiTommaso, with suspected ties to the Gambino crime family get a construction license from the city in return for over $7,000 in cash and gifts. DiTommaso denies having any ties to organized crime, but city regulators later denied the license, citing their suspicions of just such ties. The White House denies knowing about any such connections between Kerik and DiTommaso. [New York Times, 12/13/2004] Other ethical, financial, and perhaps criminal questions surround Kerik’s withdrawal, though they will not surface until months or years later. [McClellan, 2008, pp. 245-246]
Kerik Unqualified for Position? - The New York Press’s editorial staff writes that Kerik was never qualified for the job, and that his candidacy is built upon what the editorial staff calls “the myth of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.… The Rudy-9/11 myth is crucial to Kerik’s nomination, because without this myth there is no Rudy the National Player, and without Rudy the National Player there is no nomination of brusque outsider Bernie Kerik to a major cabinet post in Washington.” Kerik himself, the Press notes, is a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners LLC, where his reputation and manner help sell security-related products: “Because Kerik was acting chief of police when the planes slammed into the towers, and because Kerik embodies the Rudy myth by association, he is a golden moustache on the terror-business circuit, where he tells corporations and government agencies that another attack is on the way—especially if Democrats are in power—and that Nextel (or whoever) is the company to help them prepare for it.” Nothing in Kerik’s career, the Press observes, has prepared him to lead a sprawling federal bureaucracy, nor does he have any grounding in the world of international intelligence, “a critical field of knowledge for the incoming secretary.” The Press writes: “Homeland Security is meant to act as the ‘fusion center’ for all US intelligence operations. Whatever Kerik knows about this stuff, he likely gleaned from [action novelist] Tom Clancy.” [New York Press, 12/14/2004]
Media Did Its Job in Exposing Kerik's Flaws - In 2008, Scott McClellan, the current White House press secretary, will write: “After Bush nominated Kerik for secretary of Homeland Security… revelations about his behavior began flying. This was one episode in which the media illustrated the vital role the press can play in uncovering genuine malfeasance by public officials. Frankly, the media did a better job of vetting Bernard Kerik than the Bush administration did. Kerik was left with no choice but to resign.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 245-246]
Entity Tags: Giuliani Partners, George W. Bush, Bernard Kerik, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Department of Homeland Security, Frank DiTommaso, Scott McClellan, New York Press, Taser International, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Joseph Tacopina
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), considered a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, says former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik did an irresponsible job training police officers in Iraq (see May 2003 - July 2003). McCain’s criticism of Kerik is an indirect means of attacking former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, another Republican presidential contender. Kerik withdrew his name from consideration for head of the Department of Homeland Security—a position Giuliani recommended him for—amid questions about his corrupt business practices (see December 13, 2004). McCain, whose comments are made the same day Kerik surrenders to face federal corruption charges in New York, says Giuliani’s longtime friendship and business relationships with Kerik are reason to doubt Giuliani’s judgment. McCain says of Kerik’s job performance in Iraq: “I don’t know Mr. Kerik. I do know that I went to Baghdad shortly after the initial victory and met in Baghdad with [then-ambassador Paul] Bremer and [Lieutenant General Ricardo] Sanchez. And Kerik was there. Kerik was supposed to be there to help train the police force. He stayed two months and one day left, just up and left.… That’s why I never would’ve supported him to be the head of homeland security because of his irresponsible act when he was over in Baghdad to try and help train the police. One of the reasons why we had so much trouble with the initial training of the police was because he came, didn’t do anything, and then went out to the airport and left.” McCain is joined on the campaign trail by former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, who says of Giuliani: “It was clear the mayor and I had a different view what the department does and the kind of leadership it needed. His judgment would’ve been different than mine.… We’re not talking about some urban city patronage job. That’s not what a Cabinet secretary’s about.” [Associated Press, 11/9/2007]
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