Obama appoints Jeh Johnson to head Homeland Security

Former Pentagon attorney will play central role in efforts to reform immigration

US president Barack Obama has named former Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson to run the Department of Homeland Security. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/ Bloomberg

US president Barack Obama has named former Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson to run the Department of Homeland Security. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/ Bloomberg

Sat, Oct 19, 2013, 01:00

US president Barack Obama yesterday named former Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson to run the Department of Homeland Security, where the task of securing the US’s borders will give Mr Johnson a central role in the president’s immigration reform efforts.

Mr Johnson, a partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, served as general counsel at the Pentagon during Mr Obama’s first term. There, he was involved in ending the military’s ban on gays serving in the armed forces and in formulating the administration’s policy for the use of drones to strike at enemy targets.

While at the Pentagon, Mr Johnson also worked on counterterrorism, cyber security and disaster response, all of which will be issues he will have to address as head of homeland security.

“Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States,” Mr Obama said.

Mr Johnson must win confirmation in the Senate. In an indication of challenges ahead of him, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said Mr Johnson would have to address concerns over management of the sprawling agency and allegations that immigration officers are releasing violent criminals.

“Enforcement has collapsed, officer morale has plummeted, and the integrity of the entire immigration legal system is in jeopardy,” Mr Sessions said in a statement.

Speaking at the White House, Johnson described how being in Manhattan on 9/11 had motivated him to pursue work in public service.

“I wandered the streets in New York and wondered, and asked, what can I do,” he said. “Since then I have tried to devote myself to answer that question.” – (Reuters)