Jeh Johnson nominated to head DHS

Johnson “was a key decision maker on various legal questions regarding different points of overlap between the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security,” the senior administration official. “During disaster responses, the Department of Defense oftentimes coordinates with DHS to provide personnel, equipment, money and other resources. Whether it was Hurricane Sandy or the Deepwater Oil Spill, DoD was working with its partner, DHS, to support the government’s efforts to quickly respond effectively.”

ABC News reports that in both private practice and public service, Johnson has taken strong, and sometimes controversial, position stances on matters of national security.

He supports the use of drones to attack terrorism targets overseas and defends the government collection of so-called “metadata” from Americans’ phone calls – an NSA program which, he notes, was deemed legal by all three branches of government.

In addition, Johnson spearheaded reforms to the military commissions system at Guantanamo Bay and helped write the 250-page report that led to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, as his firm’s Web site put it.

In recent years, he has called on the public to rethink how they view terrorists and the U.S. battle against terrorism, saying terrorists are no longer strictly aligned with al Qaeda and have become “more of a mixed bag.”

What worries me most is … our inability in the political dialogue to have a calm, rational debate about new authorities,” Johnson said on “The Charlie Rose Show” in May. “People get very emotional about these subjects and very excited about these subjects. … My hope is that we can have a calm, rational, intelligent discussion about what’s needed for the future in terms of national security.”

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) released a statement on the nomination of Jeh Johnson, in which he gave expression to criticism voiced on the Hill over aspects of the department’s operations:

“I am pleased that the Administration has finally taken seriously its obligation to fill leadership positions at DHS, and I look forward to hearing Mr. Johnson’s vision for improving the Department’s operations, morale and creating a more unified agency. In order for DHS to carry out its core mission of protecting the American people — from our border and cyber security to the growing threat of terrorism — the Department needs a strongleader with a commitment to enforcing the law.

“Even with this prospective nominee, over 40 percent of senior leadership positions at DHS are either vacant or have an ‘acting’ placeholder. The lack of leadership at the White House is reflected in the holes in leadership at the Department, and these important positions must be filled in order to fill the holes in our homeland security.”