Although I doubt it would bother Chimpy much, Bernie Kerik is not he kind of person you might like to sit next to on a bus. One is left to wonder if he was selected to replace Tom Ridge because of his ability to lie.
The autobiography of Bernard B. Kerik, President Bush’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, recounts a difficult time 20 years ago when he was expelled from Saudi Arabia amid a power struggle involving the head of a hospital complex where Kerik helped command a security staff.
In the book, Kerik described his discomfort at having to investigate employees’ private lives, but said it was necessary because of the Saudis’ laws prohibiting drinking and mingling of the sexes in public. “It was challenging, negotiating such a closed, rigid system and trying to find justice in laws that, to an American, were unjust,” he wrote. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1984, the book said, after he had a physical altercation with a Saudi secret police official who was interrogating him.
Since he was nominated last week to be homeland security secretary, however, nine former employees of the hospital have said that Kerik and his colleagues were carrying out the private agenda of the hospital’s administrator, Nizar Feteih, and that the surveillance was intended to control people’s private affairs. Feteih became embroiled in a scandal that centered in part on his use of the institution’s security staff to track the private lives of several women with whom he was romantically involved, and men who came in contact with them, the ex-employees said.
“Kerik was a goon,” said John Jones, a former hospital manager, who said he felt harassed by the security team. “They were Gestapo. . . . They made my life so miserable.”
“Kerik used heavy-handed tactics in following single men around and keeping them away from some women,” said Ted Bailey, who was a doctor at the hospital and now practices in Indiana. Added paramedic Michael Queen: “Men and women had to be careful with security, but Bernie was the one we watched out for the most.”
“Bernie Kerik was an enforcer” for the head of the security office and for hospital administrator Feteih, Mackey said. “It was sinister.”
Froude recalled that in one encounter with Kerik, “he summoned me to his office and slid a piece of paper toward me and said, ‘I want you to tell me what is incorrect in this,’ ” Froude said. “It was an account of how I’d dated some women. I said, ‘Besides the spelling errors, it’s correct.’ He got out of his chair and said, ‘Don’t get fresh with me, doc.’ ” He also recalled Kerik surveilling him from a security car when he left a woman’s apartment late one night.