Chertoff headed Justice Dept. criminal division during post-9/11 period.

A month after his previous choice to lead the Dept. of Homeland Security withdrew, President Bush has selected federal judge Michael Chertoff as his nominee to be secretary of the sprawling department. Chertoff, 51, headed the Justice Dept.'s criminal division at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack until he moved to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003. From 1990 to 1994, he was U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, his home state.

In announcing his choice on Jan. 11, Bush called Chertoff "a practical organizer, a skilled manager and a brilliant thinker." He will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

The White House had to find a new candidate after Bush's previous choice, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, withdrew on Dec. 10, a week after his nomination was announced. The White House said he withdrew for "personal reasons." According to published reports, Kerik said there were "questions" about the immigration status and tax filings for a former housekeeper and nanny.

In his remarks introducing Chertoff, Bush noted that his nominee had been confirmed three times by the Senate to other federal positions. Bush said, "In the days after September the 11th, Mike helped trace the terrorist attacks to the al Qaeda network. He understood immediately that the strategy on the war on terror is to prevent attacks before they occur."

The homeland security department, launched in early 2003, encompasses some 170,000 workers from 22 formerly separate agencies, including the Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox praised Chertoff as "an excellent choice" as Homeland Security secretary.

(White House photo by Paul Morse )