Ex-DoD Lawyer Tapped As Homeland Security Chief


U.S. President Barack Obama will name Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's former top lawyer, to succeed Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, officials said.

Johnson, whose first name is pronounced "Jay," framed many Obama administration national security policies and is widely respected in the administration for his capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions, an administration official said.

Obama is expected to announce his nomination in the White House Rose Garden at 2 p.m. Friday, the White House said.

"The president is selecting Johnson because he is one the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders," a senior administration official told The Washington Post.

"During his tenure at the Department of Defense, he was known for his sound judgment and counsel," the official said, adding Johnson was "responsible for the prior legal review and approval of every military operation approved by the president and secretary of defense" during Obama's first term.

The nomination of Johnson, 56, must be confirmed by the Senate, which confirmed him as Defense Department general counsel Feb. 9, 2009. He left that job in December 2012 to return to private practice.

Napolitano resigned in July to lead the University of California system.

Homeland security is currently run by acting Secretary Rand Beers, who is undersecretary for national protection and programs.

The department, created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has the primary responsibilities of protecting the United States and its territories from terrorist attacks. Its mission covers counter-terrorism and cybersecurity, but it also oversees issues including the government's response to human-made and national disasters and border security.

Johnson's Pentagon job placed him at the center of some of Obama's most important national security decisions, the Post said.

These included the detention of terrorism suspects and the practice of targeted killings beyond defined battlefields to the administration's drive to end the "don't ask, don't tell" law that barred gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Shortly before leaving the Pentagon last year, he publicly questioned the idea of an indefinite war against terrorism.

"War violates the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents -- in war parents bury their children," he said in a November 2012 speech at England's Oxford Union debating society.

"In its 12th year, we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the 'new normal,'" he said. "Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives."

He predicted the United States would reach a "tipping point" in which the government's efforts against al-Qaida would no longer be considered an armed conflict and would be part of a more traditional law-enforcement effort against individual terrorists.

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