Chertoff-ful: "Horriffic Irony" Horrifies Award Namesake's Grandson

chertoff_200x166.jpgAl Kamen reported yesterday that Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff is the proud recipient of this year's "prestigious Henry Petersen award."


The award is traditionally given to Department of Justice criminal division careerists who did their jobs well for a long time. Chertoff's honor hasn't garnered a lot of attention, but one guy who did notice was Miles W. Swanson, grandson of Henry Petersen himself. Swanson writes:

Today with horror I read in the Washington Post that Michael Chertoff is receiving the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Henry Petersen Award, the most prestigious award for the DoJ's Criminal Division. Besides being my grandfather, Henry Petersen was the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, chief prosecutor for Watergate, and career employee at the DOJ. What makes this situation so horrible, besides the fact that Mr. Chertoff is a political appointee, an ass, not a career employee at the DOJ, and probably the exact opposite of my grandfather: I moved to New Orleans from D.C. a couple months after Katrina to do volunteer legal work. I staff a free legal clinic in the 9th Ward with the Common Ground Legal Collective as well as several bankruptcy/debtor relief clinics in and around New Orleans as part of The Pro Bono Project. As you can imagine, I deal with Mr. Chertoff's mess on a daily basis. Normally, I go out to lunch with all the heads and award recipient and to the award ceremony (being held tomorrow [today -ed] at the DOJ) every year with my grandmother and mother to present the award. It's probably best that I don't go as they would have a tough time holding me back.

After the jump, Mr. Swanson's letters to Mr. Chertoff and Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher.

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Text of the Chertoff 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.

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