his background. But when the total story is revealed, the picture becomes quite a bit more disturbing than the fragments suggest.
Q. So the White House is looking for someone to head a department with 180,000 employees and a $36 billion budget. They get a resume from someone who's done some work as a bodyguard, 8 years as a low-level cop, 5 years running the local jail and, most recently, aborted his only White House appointment (in utter failure) after only three months. What do they say?
|A. "Bernie Kerik is one of the most accomplished and effective leaders of law enforcement in America. In every position he has demonstrated a deep commitment to justice, a heart for the innocent and a record of great success." -- G.W. Bush, Dec. 3, 2004|
Right. And both Democrats and Republicans sing praise, as the press nods in agreement.
That punchline sounds weak because it's no joke.
I found that each news report on Kerik focused on a different aspect of his background. But when the total story is revealed, the picture becomes quite a bit more disturbing than the fragments suggest:
- After military, worked as private security in Saudi Arabia
- Started his career in government in 1986, as a warden in a county jail
- 1986-94 worked as police officer for NYPD, including undercover drug work (a job that is notorious for blurring many cops' legal and moral boundaries)
- In 1993, as NYPD detective, became bodyguard and chauffeur for Republican mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani, whom he met and befriended in 1989.
- After Giuliani's election, Kerik's loyalty was rewarded by sending him back where he began: running local jails. That's where the bulk of his management experience has been (1995-2000), with Giuliani appointing him as deputy commissioner, then commissioner of Department of "Corrections".
- In 2000 Giuliani appointed Kerik as police commissioner. The tragedy in New York on Sep. 11 2001 brought both Giuliani and Kerik fame and fortune. Kerik resigned just two months later, to become a "security consultant" in Giuliani's lucrative consulting firm.
- In 2002 Kerik joined the board of Taser International, the stun gun manufacturer. Thanks to booming sales to law enforcement agencies, Kerik was able to cash in last month by unloading $5 million of Taser stock (Dumping stock is a standard pre-appointment gesture to remove the appearance of conflict of interest. His Homeland Security appointment would require him to give up his board seat).
- In May 2003 Kerik's loyalty to the White House was rewarded with an
appointment in Iraq to reshape its police force from a Baathist tool of execution and torture, to NYPD-style policing as exemplified by the execution of Amadou Diallo (whose killers were cleared by Kerik) and the torture of Abner Louima. Though he pledged
to stay six months or longer, he left after only three months - without
explanation. Though his obvious failure was probably due to many
factors beyond him, his work did bring him personal recognition. The Financial
Times of London reported:
“Some UK officials have been appalled by the language and tactics used by the US security supremo, Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner dubbed the ‘Baghdad terminator’ because of his uncompromising style.”
Kerik seems to be chronically infected with the blurred moral boundaries of an undercover narcotics cop. His career and wealth is based on exploitation of the 9/11 tragedy. And in every management position Kerik has left a legacy of corruption, rising from small-time to big:
- A Kerik appointee is currently accused of pressuring underlings at the jail into working on Republican political campaigns.
- Kerik was forced to pay a $2,500 fine for sending NYPD detectives to Ohio to do research for the autobiography he was writing.
- A Kerik crony was sentenced to a year in prison for embezzling $142,733 from a charity whose board Kerik sat on
- Kerik's top jail aide is under investigation for resale of jail scrap metal that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars that are unaccounted for.
- During Kerik's reign as jail czar, a scheme of kickbacks on cigarettes sold to inmates netted a million dollars that are unaccounted for.
- In his Iraq reign, $20 million was spent importing light arms, even though light arms were in abundance from abandoned arsenals. Kickback again?
Every headline calls Kerik "ex-NYPD head", but he held that position for barely a year. The headlines serve to drive home the message pointed out by a presidential adviser: Kerik "brings 9/11 symbolism into the Cabinet." Translation: Kerik is still milking his 9/11 cash cow.
Kerik's only substantial management experience is as a jailer. And that may be the real reason the White House finds him suitable for Homeland Security's next phase of "protecting the nation".
- "Former NYPD top cop now asked to protect nation" http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-12-02-kerik-homeland-security_x.htm
- "Ex-NYPD Official To Succeed Ridge" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29236-2004Dec2.html
- "NYPD vet to follow Ridge" http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-12-02-bush-kerik_x.htm
- "Bernie's been W's go-to guy since Sept. 11" http://www.nydailynews.com/news/wn_report/story/257858p-220869c.html
- "Ex-NYC police chief seen as Ridge successor" http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2004/12/03/ex_nyc_police_chief_seen_as_ridge_successor
- "He's a tried-and-Blue leader" http://www.nydailynews.com/news/story/258515p-221422c.html
- "Eyes on Kerik" http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/crime/ny-nyker014061153dec01,0,6446757.story?coll=ny-licrime-headlines
- "Front man for a police state: Bernard Kerik to head US Homeland Security Department" http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/dec2004/keri-d04.shtml