News / USA

Obama Nominates Former Pentagon Lawyer for Homeland Security Post

President Barack Obama stands with Jeh Johnson, his choice for the next Homeland Security Secretary, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Oct. 18, 2013.
President Barack Obama stands with Jeh Johnson, his choice for the next Homeland Security Secretary, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Oct. 18, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday nominated a former Defense Department lawyer, Jeh Johnson, to be the next secretary of Homeland Security. Johnson played a major role in explaining Obama administration legal justifications on the use of unmanned drones and lethal targeted strikes, and U.S. detention policies.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Johnson would become only the fourth Homeland Security secretary, replacing Janet Napolitano, who led the department through Obama's first term.

Created after the September 11, 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States, the department has a $60-billion budget, and 240,000 employees.

It handles everything from emergency management, immigration and customs and border control, and transportation security to the U.S. Secret Service and Coast Guard.

In his role at the Pentagon, Johnson was responsible for reviewing the legal grounds for military operations approved by the president and the defense secretary.

In announcing the nomination, Obama paid tribute to Johnson's role in national security, and in ensuring that U.S. principles are upheld in the fight against terrorism.

"Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States. As the Pentagon's top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al-Qaida in the [Pakistani tribal region] FATA," said Obama. "When, I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today's threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law."

Johnson thanked the president for placing trust in him to carry out a "large and important responsibility."

Johnson recalled that he was in New York City in 2001 when al-Qaida terrorists crashed commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center towers.

"When that bright and beautiful day, a day something like this, was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history, I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, 'what can I do?' Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question," said Johnson.

Johnson's involvement in decisions on the use of unmanned drones, targeted killings of terrorist suspects, and on detention policy, means he is likely to face some heavy questioning from U.S. lawmakers at his confirmation hearing.

His past remarks provided an almost exact template for what Obama would say about the war against terrorists, including the president's insistence that a war against an "unconventional" enemy not be fought at the expense of America's laws and principles.

Speaking at Britain's Oxford University in 2012, Johnson said, "President Obama, himself a lawyer and a good one, has insisted that our efforts in pursuit of this unconventional enemy stay firmly rooted in conventional legal principles. For in our efforts to dismantle and destroy al-Qaida, we cannot dismantle our laws and our values, too."

Johnson also spoke about Obama's ban on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, and described the system of military commissions as "more credible, sustainable and transparent."

Obama recognized another major role Johnson had, guiding a report that led to the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy that had barred gay Americans from serving openly in the military.  

If confirmed, Johnson will become the first African-American Homeland Security secretary. Johnson has pledged to devote all his "energy, focus and ability" to safeguarding the nation's security.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid