Obama’s DHS pick is ex-Pentagon attorney: Specialties include cybersecurity and drone strikes
President Obama plans to nominate former Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson as the next secretary of Homeland Security, a White House official said Thursday.
Johnson, general counsel for the Defense Department during Obama’s first term, will be introduced by the president at a ceremony on Friday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson would replace Janet Napolitano, who left the administration to run the University of California education system.
“The president is selecting Johnson because he is one of the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders, having served as the senior lawyer for the largest government agency in the world,” the official said.
The official said that during his tenure at the Defense Department, Johnson exhibited “sound judgment” and provided “prior legal review and approval of every military operation approved by the president and secretary of Defense.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Obama has not yet made his public announcement.
Johnson would be the fourth head of the Department of Homeland Security, created in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The White House official described Johnson as “a critical member of the president’s counterterrorism team,” and someone who worked closely with Homeland Security officials during his years at the Pentagon.
His specialties include cybersecurity, the official said. He played a key role in repealing the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned openly gay servicemembers.
Johnson, who left his Pentagon post in 2012, also provided legal guidance in the use of unmanned drones against terrorism suspects overseas, and in the use of military commissions — rather than civilian courts — to try suspects.
The Homeland Security nominee also led a crackdown on unauthorized news leaks at the Defense Department, including a warning to a former Navy SEAL who wrote a book about the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
During a speech at Britain’s Oxford University last year, Johnson said that the nation’s war on terrorism should not be endless, and the focus should shift to law enforcement and intelligence operations.
“War must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs,” Johnson said. “In its 12th year, we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the new normal.”
These and other subjects could well surface at a Senate confirmation hearing.
Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First, said Johnson “grappled with the challenges of protecting national security while respecting human rights and upholding American ideals” during his time at the Pentagon.
“These are key issues in the Department of Homeland Security, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with him should he be confirmed to lead DHS,” she said in a statement.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., criticized Obama for nominating a “loyalist and fundraiser” to lead what he called a “mismanaged” department.
“This is deeply concerning,” Sessions said. “This huge department must have a proven manager with strong relevant law enforcement experience, recognized independence and integrity, who can restore this department to its full capability.”
An early political supporter of Obama, Johnson — a native of Wappingers Falls, N.Y. — also served as general counsel to the Air Force during President Clinton’s administration.
This is a copy of the full article provided by USA Today
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