After heightened speculation that President Barack Obama was set to select New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, he did an unexpected pivot and tapped former Pentagon lawyer and unapologetic drone-supporter Jeh Johnson, 56, for the post, reports Democracy Now.
Johnson, a highly accomplished layer who served as General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012 during the first Obama Administration, is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Morehouse College. He is also a long-time supporter of the POTUS and the Democratic Party.
Some Republicans quickly labeled the move political cronyism and have already begun questioning Johnson’s ability to handle the job:
“Rather than selecting someone who knows the unique dynamics of our Southern border, President Obama has tapped one of his former New York fundraisers. We need someone who knows how to secure the border, not dial for dollars,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement.
Johnson’s vast experience in the intricacies of United States military policy is quite varied.
Not only did he oversee the ending of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell in the US military, he played a key role in the escalation of unmanned drone warfare in both Iraq and Afghanistan, something for which President Obama has also faced sharp criticism.
As previously reported by NewsOne, Dr. Cornel West labeled President Obama a “global George Zimmerman” for his unethical — and expanding — drone war that is responsible for the murders of hundreds of innocent children, and for closely considering Kelly — the architect of ‘Stop and Frisk‘ – to head Homeland Security.
“I think we have to acknowledge that President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal—George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there’s actually parallels here.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been six times the number of drone strikes in Pakistan under the Obama Administration than under the Bush 43 Administration, and the CIA has been authorized to target funerals and rescuers.
“I think we have to be very honest, let us not be deceived: Nixon, Bush, Obama, they’re war criminals,” West said. “They have killed innocent people in the name of the struggle for freedom, but they’re suspending the law, very much like Wall Street criminals. The law is suspended for them, but the law applies for the rest of us. You and I, brother Tavis, if we kill an innocent person we go to jail, and we’re going to be in there forever.”
Johnson — who in his position as chief lawyer at the Pentagon had legal authority over all drone strikes carried out by the Defense Department and President Obama — spoke on the Obama Administration’s controversial drone policies at Fordham Law School.
The National Journal reports:
“[Our] government is in a lose-lose position” in regards to keeping such programs secret. “The problem is that the American public is suspicious of executive power shrouded in secrecy, ” [Johnson] said. “In the absence of an official picture of what our government is doing, and by what authority, many in the public fill the void by envisioning the worst.”
“In my view, targeted lethal force is at its least controversial when it is on its strongest, most traditional legal foundation. The essential mission of the U.S. military is to capture or kill an enemy. Armies have been doing this for thousands of years. As part of a congressionally authorized armed conflict, the foundation is even stronger. Furthermore, the parameters of congressionally authorized armed conflict are transparent to the public, from the words of the congressional authorization itself, and the Executive Branch’s interpretation of that authorization, which this Administration has made public.”
Johnson also suggested that U.S. citizens could be targeted in strikes in a February 2012 speech at Yale Law School. “Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where noncitizen belligerents are valid military objectives,” Johnson said. In the same speech, Johnson pushed the Obama administration’s legal rationale for the targeted-killing program, saying that “under well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an ‘assassination.’ “
Announcing Johnson’s confirmation in the Rose Garden, President Obama explained how he had come to his decision:
In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work [of outgoing Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano]. From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.
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 have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.
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.
While Johnson’s appointment has been lauded in some circles as a step forward for racial diversity, selecting an African-American to further a White supremacist and imperialist system could potentially be a cosmetic distraction. If Johnson is confirmed, time will tell what changes, if any, will occur as it pertains to government transparency, extrajudicial killings and unmanned drone strikes that render innocent children casualties of war.
Watch President Obama announce Jeh Johnson’s nomination below: