WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary designee Michael Chertoff (search) urged the FBI to address legal problems in the detentions of illegal immigrants who were held for months after they were swept up in terrorism investigations.
Answering a 163-page Senate questionnaire, a copy of which was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, Chertoff said he told top FBI (search) officials that such delays would affect bond hearings. Clearing the detainees, he said, should have taken only several days.
Chertoff, a federal appeals court judge, was head of the Justice Department's criminal division (search) when he raised "the issue of the pace of clearance investigations" with FBI Director Robert Mueller and Assistant Director Dale Watson. He said he also "asked others to raise it with the FBI."
"The existence of the delay suggests the importance of developing appropriate procedures to streamline clearances in the future," Chertoff said in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee document.
The committee is holding Chertoff's confirmation hearing Wednesday. He is expected to win Senate approval to become the nation's second homeland security secretary.
Chertoff said he did not recall playing a role in developing Justice Department strategies to detain the immigrants longer by placing holds on their bond applications or release determinations.