Dec 18, 2008

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff waxed reflective Thursday on the Bush administration’s success in thwarting terrorism at home over the past seven and a half years while attacks have escalated around the world.

“Although I’m always reluctant to crow about an accomplishment at this point because we obviously are always concerned about what happens tomorrow and the next day, I do think with a kind of traditional touching of wood . . . that no one would have predicted in the dark days immediately following Sept. 11, when the smoke was still emanating from the smoldering fires underneath the World Trade Center . . . that there would have been no successful attack on American soil in the following seven years,” Chertoff said.

“And I don’t think that’s an accident. I don’t know many people who do. I think it’s actually a direct result of the policies that this president launched, literally, in the minutes after Sept. 11 and has carried through on as we speak today,” he said, in what amounted to a valedictory address for the outgoing secretary.

The fact that the country hasn’t experienced a terrorist attack under Chertoff’s watch is an appropriate metric for defining his legacy, said Rich Cooper, a principal at the homeland security consulting firm Catalyst Partners.

“It’s an undeniable metric,” said Cooper, who attended Chertoff’s speech. “If nothing has occurred since then — that’s a fact. It’s not by accident. There have been a lot of things that have been . . . as he detailed, thwarted, prevented, stopped from occurring.”

But Cooper warned that the metric could still change.

“It could change in an instant between now and the inauguration and it could change in the days and weeks following the inauguration,” he said. “This is a metric that could change at any time, and I think everyone recognizes that.”

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