Chertoff’s Preemptive Crackdown


“For too long, these gangs have gone unchecked flouting all laws and demonstrating a blatant disregard for public safety.”

Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security

Homeland Security’s Michael Chertoff is a busy man. In the last month alone he’s arrested more than 600 gang members. There’s only one problem. None of them has been charged with a crime.

No matter.

In Chertoff’s world that’s only a minor glitch; after all, Chertoff engineered the infamous round up of 1,100 Muslims following 9-11; tossing them all in the federal hoosegow and barring them from legal counsel.

It was quite a coup, and probably helped the public feel more secure from the looming threat of domestic terror.

As it happens, not one of Chertoff’s detainees was ever convicted of a crime or connected in any way to terrorism. It turns out the whole misadventure was a bigger flop than a Bill Bennett Las Vegas vacation.

A slipshod effort like the post 9-11 sweeps would normally plunk one in the long-gray line at the unemployment office. Instead, it was the boost that Chertoff needed to propel him to the zenith of the national bureaucracy; Homeland Security, the largest agency in the federal government. “Failing upwards” is a long-standing tradition in the Bush White House and Chertoff has become the resident poster child.

His tenure at the agency had been fairly lackluster until the announcement of yesterday’s dragnet. Maybe he felt some friendly competition from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who rolled up an astonishing 10,000 criminal suspects’ in Operation Falcon just months ago. As the conservative Washington Times noted, (Gonzales) “sweep was a virtual clearinghouse for warrants on drug, gang, gun and sex-offender suspects nationwide.” That’s how law enforcement is conducted now in Washington; no more meticulous, time-consuming investigations; just bundle the names together with scotch-tape and fire-up the Paddy-wagon.

Chertoff was assisted in his mass-arrests by Immigration; a reliable boon to autocrats who can’t be bothered with the hassle of trying to figure out whether a crime has actually been committed. It’s a scattershot method that heaps the good guys with the bad and undermines bonds within the community.

Never mind; just arrest them all and worry about the details later. After all, as Joseph Stalin’s Police chief Beria opined, “Everyone’s guilty of something”.

For all practical purposes Chertoff’s “Operation Community Shield” was a total bust. Oh yeah, he got his free air-time on TV and the media was quick to applaud his get-tough approach on crime, but let’s face it; nothing was accomplished and the only thing the community was shielded from was justice. Just read between the lines:

“Collectively, we have arrested members of over 80 different gangs as part of Operation Community Shield, and over half of those arrested in the last two weeks have prior criminal histories,” Chertoff said. “Many were gang leaders with exceptionally violent criminal histories.”

“Prior criminal histories”?

“Exceptionally violent criminal histories”?


So now we’re rounding up people who’ve already done their time? What an outrage.

No wonder Chertoff needed the help of Immigration to get him through this fiasco. Apparently he had no other legal way to harass the gang members than by pestering them with immigration violations.

And this is supposed to make us safer?

According to a Voice of America report, “Mr. Chertoff says investigators targeted gang members in 27 states, and while many were picked up for alleged immigration violations, 76 face criminal charges.”

Only 76 out of 600 “face criminal charges”?

It’s clear that Homeland Security is working closely with friends in the media to raise the “fear quotient” and create the sense that big-brother is preemptively dealing with “dangerous” gangs. It’s a big mistake. My guess is that their ham-fisted methods will just inflame the communities and produce more open hostility to law enforcement.

“Throughout this entire Community Shield initiative,” Chertoff opined, “DHS (Dept of Homeland Security) has worked closely with international partners and with our domestic law enforcement partners at all levels to identify gang organizations and their memberships, and to act on this intelligence in order to target those criminal gangs who threaten our communities and our homeland.”

What Chertoff really means to say is that the “alleged” gang-members were rounded up in a humongous government crackdown with no credible proof of a crime and probably no prospect of a fair hearing. They’ve been detained on the thinnest of evidence to soft-pedal the new KGB-style tactics at DHS and to elevate Chertoff as a responsible steward of a domestic security.

“We’re just getting started,” said Operation Community Shield’s chief Marcy Forman.

Whew! I’m sure we’ll all sleep better tonight.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com


















More articles by:

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

January 20, 2020
Paul Street
Trump Showed Us Who He Was Before He Became President
Eric Mann
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Ipek S. Burnett
MLK and the Ghost of an Untrue Dream
Mark Harris
Better Living Through Glyphosate? Spray Now, Ask Questions Later
Katie Fite
Owyhee Initiative Wilderness and Public Lands Deal Critique: Ten Years After
Thomas Knapp
A Loophole for the Lawless: “Qualified Immunity” Must Go
Best Enemies Forever: The Iran-U.S. Kabuki Show
Jeff Mackler
Worldwide Furor Sparked by U.S. Assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani
William deBuys
The Humanitarian and Environmental Disaster of Trump’s Border Wall
Binoy Kampmark
A Matter of Quality: Air Pollution, Tennis and Sporting Officialdom
James Haught
GOP Albatross
Jill Richardson
Why Do We Have School Lunch Debt at All?
Robert Koehler
Nuclear Hubris
Patrick T. Hiller
Instead of Real-Time Commentary, Eight Common-Sense Reason for Not Going to War with Iran
Charles Andrews
A Note on Carlos Ghosn and Global Capitalism
Jeffrey St. Clair
Some Trees: Los Angeles
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels