Bush hands homeland security to lawman

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The Independent US

Bernard Kerik, the no-nonsense former New York police commissioner, was named by President George Bush yesterday to take over at the Department of Homeland Security, charged with keeping America safe from terrorism.

Bernard Kerik, the no-nonsense former New York police commissioner, was named by President George Bush yesterday to take over at the Department of Homeland Security, charged with keeping America safe from terrorism.

"I know what is at stake," said Mr Kerik, who led the New York force during the attacks on 11 September 2001. The horrors he saw that day would be a "permanent reminder of the awesome responsibility you place in my hands", he told Mr Bush as the President made the announcement at the White House.

Earlier Mr Bush described his nominee as "one of the most accomplished and effective leaders of law enforcement in the country ... with a heart for the innocent, and a record of great success". Though the plain-spoken and inspirational Mr Kerik is a departure from the meek, buttoned-down style of most Bush appointees, his appointment fits a well-established pattern since the President's re-election last month.

Again, a close personal ally of the President has been installed in a key government post. At the State Department, Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser who is considered almost "family" by the Bushes, will replace Colin Powell. Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel and another tried Bush loyalist, will succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

Mr Kerik worked closely with the President in the aftermath of 11 September. Since, he has performed several important missions for the administration, including helping the post-Saddam Iraq government set up a new security force.

Senior Senate Democrats have signalled that his nomination would go through very quickly, but the unwieldy Homeland Security department will be his biggest challenge, complicated further by the still-unresolved battle over the reform of US intelligence services, where Mr Bush is struggling to overcome resistance of some senior Republicans.

The outgoing Mr Ridge is deemed to have done a decent job in setting up the first new cabinet department in more than 50 years, an awkward amalgam of 22 previously separate agencies with 180,000 employees, and a $36bn (£18.6bn) budget. Most importantly, by good luck or good judgement, the US has not suffered another terrorist attack on its soil since September 2001.

But Mr Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor, has lost crucial bureaucratic turf battles, and been criticised for failing to secure adequate funding, and not sending resources where they are most needed. His colour-coded terror alert system also attracted ridicule, although Mr Ridge is unrepentant.

But another Bush vacancy has opened up. John Danforth has resigned as US ambassador to the United Nations only five months after taking the job. The former Missouri senator said yesterday he was leaving for family reasons, and because he wanted to give Mr Bush a free hand in rebuilding his foreign policy team, after the departure of General Powell.

As widely expected, Tommy Thompson, the Health Secretary, also resigned, likely to be replaced by Mark McClellan, now running the Medicare and Medicaid federal health care programmes, and the brother of Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman. White House officials have also indicated that John Snow's spell as Treasury Secretary is near its end.

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