Bush’s homeland security team hangs out corporate shingles

By Carol Eisenberg

April 17, 2009 at 7:44am

Nearly every top member of the Bush Administration’s homeland security team has gone through the revolving door and re-emerged as a private consultant, where they can be expected to make big bucks off their expertise and contacts.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made the most ambitious transition, founding The Chertoff Group to advise government and corporate clients on security.

The former federal judge has recruited so many Bush administration heavyweights that the firm looks almost like a government-in-exile. Among its big-name principals are former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA assistant director Charles Allen, who most recently worked for Chertoff as assistant Homeland Security Secretary for intelligence.

Michael Chertoff
Michael Chertoff

Other partners are retired Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, a former Homeland Security undersecretary for science and technology, Paul Schneider, a former deputy Homeland Security secretary, and Chad Sweet, a former director of operations for the CIA.

Former White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend has taken a different path, throwing in with Baker Botts LLP, a global law firm that includes such Republican stalwarts as James A. Baker, where she is starting a security and corporate risk counseling practice.

“Fran’s perspective and experience at the highest levels of government will provide our clients around the world with a special resource to help solve unusually difficult problems,” said Baker Botts Managing Partner Walt Smith.

The cycling between government and private industry is hardly unexpected. Coming up on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, security continues to be a big business. And as members of the executive branch and Congress rspin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does privilege, power, access and, of course, money.

There is nothing illegal about the movement between government and industry, but watchdog groups caution that it often creates symbiotic relationships between private and public entities that can lead to conflicts of interest.

The path is certainly well-trodden: A raft of officials associated with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have hung shingles as security experts, for instance. Tom Ridge, the very first homeland security secretary, formed Ridge Global LLC, a strategic consulting firm focused on security and economic issues after he left government,

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft started the Ashcroft Group, a lobby and consulting firm, recruiting David Ayres, his former chief of staff at the Justice Department and assistant Homeland Security Secretary Tracy A. Henke, among other insiders.

One of the best-known players in the security consultant business is Giuliani Partners, founded by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who also hired members of his old team, including former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, former Corporation Counsel Michael Hess and, until 2004, former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Chertoff, who worked for both Ashcroft and Giuliani, told the Wall Street Journal that he is not concerned about competition from his old bosses.

“These are all great folks,” he said. “There’s a lot of demand out there.”

Chertoff described his niche as offering advice and technical expertise across “the spectrum” of security demands, he said. One of the firm’s first jobs is a cyber-security project for a private-sector institution, which he declined to identify.

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  • #1.   Alan 04.17.2009

    Frances Townsend and James Baker created whitewashes for Bush’s crony friends. Fran gave Memorial Hospital a free pass in her Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned report. That left out Tenet Health’s 10 deaths and LifeCare Hospitals’ 24 patient deaths in Katrina’s aftermath. LifeCare was purchased by The Carlyle Group just weeks before landfall. George W. Bush served on the board of Carlyle affiliate CaterAir in the mid 90’s.

    A different Bush landed on the Board of Tenet Health, a year after Fran’s sorry report. Jeb Bush sits at the corporate helm of a chronic ethics abusing for-profit hospital chain.

    James A. Baker covered for BP CEO Lord John Browne in Baker’s investigation of 15 deaths at the Texas City BP plant. Shortly thereafter, Browne landed a cush spot at Riverstone Holdings, a Carlyle Group energy joint venture.

    Bad government investigations for crony friends? That should sell.

  • #2.   Eduardo Herrera 05.24.2009

    Do you expect these people to remain unemployed? What type of job would you suggest for them? Given their experience, what the heck do you suggest they do? Clinton is making gazzillions of dollars speaking about stuff he learned as president, but that’s just the lazy way out. Others rather continue working and contributing. Please, don’t tell me you object to someone making money, do you?

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