Morehouse Alum Jeh Johnson Tapped to Head Homeland Security

Obama will tap an African American, Jeh Johnson, to succeed Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security

By Brentin Mock Oct 17, 2013

Those of us who were concerned that President Obama might tap New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, aka the P. Diddy of stop-and-frisk policies, as the next head of Homeland Security can rest easy. The Daily Beast is reporting that soon Obama will announce former Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson as the new Department of Homeland Security chief secretary. From The Beast:

Johnson, a well-known and trusted figure in the Obama White House, was a central player in many of the administration’s most sensitive national security and counterterrorism policies, including the ramping up of the drone program, the revival of military commissions to try suspected terrorists, and the repeal of the Defense Department’s ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces.

Johnson’s experience dealing with counterterrorism and cyber-security threats will comfort many on Capitol Hill. He is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement, also key elements of the DHS mission. Still, administration officials do not expect the nomination to be especially polarizing and are hopeful Johnson will receive a relatively warm reception in Congress.

Civil liberty groups will probably take issue with his role in the controversial drone program. It also won’t be very comforting for coastal communities and many Latino Americans that he "is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement," as reported in The Daily Beast. 

Johnson, who is an African American, is a graduate of Columbia Law School, and attended the HBCU Morehouse College for his undergrad. His father is the civil rights activist and sociologist Dr. Charles Johnson, also the first black president of the HBCU Fisk University in Tennessee. Before this Johnson practiced at a private law firm in New York and once served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the state in addition to his role in the Department of Defense.

A couple of years ago, Johnson caused a lot of head-scratching when he said in a speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have condoned today’s wars. "He would recognize that we live in a complicated world," said Johnson, "and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack."

We’ll see how he explains that in the Senate confirmations.