Michael Chertoff Gets A Letter

Brian Zick

Chertoff has been named recipient of the “prestigious Henry Petersen award,” traditionally reserved for presentation to longtime successful career officers in the Department of Justice criminal division. Miles W. Swanson, grandson of Henry Petersen, is disgusted that Chertoff has been given the totally undeserved honor, and he wrote a letter to Chertoff explaining why. Wonkette posted a copy of the letter. Dear Mr. Chertoff, My grandfather was Henry Petersen, the man whose award you are receiving tomorrow. Sadly, I am not able to attend the ceremony tomorrow in the Great Hall. You see, I am an attorney working in New Orleans…I moved to New Orleans from D.C. a couple months after Hurricane Katrina to provide volunteer legal assistance. I staff a free legal clinic in the 9th Ward as part of the Common Ground Legal Collective. Furthermore, I founded and run bankruptcy and debtor relief clinics in several locations in and around New Orleans. As I have said, it is sad that I will not be able to attend; sad on many different levels. It is sad that you are receiving the award. You, Mr. Chertoff, do not deserve anything bearing the name of Henry Petersen, let alone an award. My grandfather was the source of inspiration in my decision to attend law school and devote my life to law in the spirit of the public interest. You are the antithesis of everything he stood for in life and in memory. You must realize that I struggle with the effects of your leadership of FEMA on a daily basis (and if you still cannot hear the sarcasm in my voice, just insert “inept” before “leadership). You have done nothing to deserve this award. In fact, you deserve no place as part of the Department of Justice. Justice played no role in your authorship of the PATRIOT Act, your unforgivable response to Hurricane Katrina or your notion of what constitutes torture. Perhaps in the warped Orwellian minds of this administration or in the dark halls of the Department of Homeland Security, the concept of justice is flipped so it revolves around violations of the U.S. Constitution and intrinsic human rights? It is sad that the Henry Petersen Award is being used so blatantly as a political reward. It is sad that a person’s memory can be so twisted that it fits into your image. I liken it to forcing the square block into the space made for the triangle. In fact, I will be surprised if your hands will be able to clutch the award tomorrow; your hands should be repelled by the aura of justice emanating from the text of my grandfather’s name inscribed on the plaque. Yes, it is sad. It is sad that I will not physically be at the ceremony in the Great Hall when you get the award (this one is only sad for me). It is sad for the attendees of the award ceremony that they have to sit through your stupid little speech. It is sad for the person who photographs your lifeless body, complete with contrived smile, receiving the award. It is sad for the people of New Orleans and of all the Gulf Coast. It is sad for every citizen of this nation. Yes it is sad, ad nauseam. In closing (because I have taken enough time out of my day to pay you any heed), I want you to remember every single time your eyes peer at the Henry Petersen Award in whatever job you happen to be mucking up, that you do not deserve it. Sincerely, Miles W. Swanson, Esq.

Please consider supporting our work.

I hope you found this article important. Before you leave, I want to ask you to consider supporting our work with a donation. In These Times needs readers like you to help sustain our mission. We don’t depend on—or want—corporate advertising or deep-pocketed billionaires to fund our journalism. We’re supported by you, the reader, so we can focus on covering the issues that matter most to the progressive movement without fear or compromise.

Our work isn’t hidden behind a paywall because of people like you who support our journalism. We want to keep it that way. If you value the work we do and the movements we cover, please consider donating to In These Times.

Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.