Michael Chertoff needs an office. When I interviewed the secretary of Homeland Security this summer, we met in a pair of temporary locations between which he shuttles--first in the decaying Nebraska Avenue Complex of the naval station at Ward Circle (a center for signal analysis during World War II) and later in an unmarked and unfurnished office in the nondescript headquarters of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Ronald Reagan building, near the White House.
In the aftermath of September 11, the FBI hired Sibel Edmonds--and hundreds of others who, like her, were fluent in Middle Eastern languages--to translate thousands of hours of backlogged wiretap transcripts and other documents. Edmonds didn't stay at the FBI for very long, though. In March 2002, after she complained to her supervisor about poor management, slow progress, and even a possible spy within the translators' department, she was fired.
As TNR went to press, John Ashcroft's revelation that the United States had captured an Al Qaeda operative seeking to build a dirty bomb was distracting attention from President George W. Bush's dramatic unveiling of his plan for a Department of Homeland Security. That announcement, in turn, had distracted attention from whistle-blower Coleen Rowley's testimony about FBI bungling, which, in turn, had distracted attention from the Democrats' call for a blueribbon commission to investigate the intelligence failures preceding September 11. All of which is fine, as far as it goes.