Obama to tap Jeh Johnson as Homeland Security chief

The president is expected to announce his nomination of the former Pentagon lawyer Friday

Jeh Johnson, then Defense Department general counsel, in 2012.
Alex Wong/Getty

President Barack Obama is expected to nominate former Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson as the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday. Johnson must be confirmed by the Senate before taking over the post most recently held by Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano stepped down in August to become president of the University of California system.

A senior administration official on Thursday confirmed Johnson's selection, first reported by The Daily Beast. The official, who was not authorized to speak about the nomination on the record, spoke on condition of anonymity.

In his previous job, Johnson was responsible for a prior legal review of every military operation ordered by the president or the secretary of defense.

"The president is selecting Johnson because he is one of the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders, having served as the senior lawyer for the largest government agency in the world," a U.S. official said.

Johnson was also part of a review team behind the repeal, earlier in the Obama administration, of the "don't ask, don't tell" prohibition on gays serving openly in the military.

If confirmed to lead DHS, Johnson would be the first African-American to hold the position. 

Johnson was involved in legal decisions surrounding the U.S. drone program that has targeted terror suspects, and other key military operations.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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