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Michael Chertoff

Michael Chertoff

International Council Member, Belfer Center for Science and Internaional Affairs



As Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, Michael Chertoff led the country in blocking would-be terrorists from crossing our borders or implementing their plans if they were already in the country. He also transformed FEMA into an effective organization following Hurricane Katrina. His greatest successes have earned few headlines – because the important news is what didn’t happen.

At Chertoff Group, Mr. Chertoff provides high-level strategic counsel to corporate and government leaders on a broad range of security issues, from risk identification and prevention to preparedness, response and recovery. “Risk management has become the CEO’s concern,” he says. “We help our clients develop comprehensive strategies to manage risk without building barriers that get in the way of carrying on their business.”

Before heading up the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Chertoff served as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Earlier, during more than a decade as a federal prosecutor, he investigated and prosecuted cases of political corruption, organized crime, corporate fraud and terrorism – including the investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Chertoff is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College (1975) and Harvard Law School (1978). From 1979-1980 he served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr.

In addition to his role at Chertoff Group, Mr. Chertoff is also senior of counsel at Covington & Burling LLP, and a member of the firm’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group.



By Date


April 28, 2015

"The Slow Death Of The Color-Coded Terror Alert System"

Media Feature

By Juliette Kayyem, Lecturer in Public Policy and Michael Chertoff, International Council Member, Belfer Center for Science and Internaional Affairs

Juliette Kayyem spoke with former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff about what was wrong with the color-coded terror alert system, so we might better understand the bigger challenges we confront in a world of mayhem—how to understand risk, and how to talk about scary things.

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