Jeh Johnson

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Person.png Jeh Johnson  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Jeh Johnson.jpg
BornJeh Charles Johnson
September 11, 1957
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materMorehouse College, Columbia Law School
Children • Natalie Johnson
• Jeh Charles Johnson Jr.
SpouseSusan Maureen DiMarco
Member ofCenter for a New American Security, Lockheed

Jeh Charles Johnson is an American lawyer and former government official. He was United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017.

From 2009 to 2012, Johnson was the general counsel of the Department of Defense during the first years of the Obama administration. Before joining the Obama administration, he was a federal prosecutor, the general counsel of the Department of the Air Force, and an attorney in private practice.

As of 2021, Johnson is a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a member of the boards of directors of Lockheed Martin and U.S. Steel, and a trustee of Columbia University.

Early life and education

Johnson was born on September 11, 1957, in New York City, the son of Norma (Edelin), who worked for Planned Parenthood, and Jeh Vincent Johnson, an architect and lecturer at Vassar College.[1][2][3] His parents met as a result of the elder Johnson's friendship with Norma's brother, Milton. His father and his Uncle Milton were the only black students in their respective classes at Columbia University's School of Architecture.[4] He is also the nephew of Kenneth C. Edelin, a physician who was a defendant in a landmark case involving abortion rights.[5] Johnson is the grandson of sociologist and Fisk University President Charles S. Johnson. Johnson's first name is taken from a Liberian chief, who reportedly saved his grandfather's life while he was on a League of Nations mission to Liberia in 1930.[6]

Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College (B.A.) and Columbia Law School (J.D.). He is the recipient of eleven honorary degrees.

Early career

Johnson began as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in November 1984. He left private practice in 1989 to serve as an assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He worked in the Southern District until 1991, being involved in corruption cases.[7] Johnson returned to Paul, Weiss in 1992 and was elected partner at the firm in 1994.

In 1998, Johnson was appointed General Counsel of the Air Force by President Bill Clinton after confirmation by the U.S. Senate. As General Counsel, Johnson was the senior legal official in the Air Force and Governor of Wake Island, in the Pacific Ocean.[citation needed] His tenure coincided with the bombing of Yugoslavia, Operation Allied Force in 1999, where, among other legal decisions, the US Air Force was allowed to deliberately bomb the Chinese embassy[8]. He was awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service for his efforts.[9]

After his service in the Clinton administration, Johnson returned to Paul, Weiss in 2001, where he tried large commercial cases.[9]

Johnson was a member of the Executive Committee of the New York City Bar Association. From 2001 to 2004, he served as chairman of the City Bar's Judiciary Committee, which rates and approves all federal, state and local judges in New York City. In 2007, Johnson was shortlisted by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination to be Chief Judge of New York[10] though the incumbent, Judith Kaye, was ultimately reappointed by former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Involvement with the Democratic Party

Johnson was active in Democratic Party politics, as a fundraiser and adviser to presidential campaigns. Johnson served as special counsel to John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign,[11] and was an early supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, active as a foreign policy adviser and as a member of his national finance committee.[12]

Obama administration

General Counsel of the Department of Defense

On January 8, 2009, then President-elect Barack Obama announced Johnson's nomination as Department of Defense General Counsel.[13] In 2009, Johnson was heavily involved in the reform of military commissions, and testified before Congress numerous times in support of the Military Commissions Act of 2009.[14]

As general counsel, Johnson gave a number of speeches on national security. In a speech he delivered at the Heritage Foundation in October 2011, Johnson warned against "over-militarizing" the U.S. government's approach to counterterrorism: "There is risk in permitting and expecting the U.S. military to extend its powerful reach into areas traditionally reserved for civilian law enforcement in this country." [15] At a speech at Yale Law School in February 2012, Johnson defended "targeted killings".[16]

At the Oxford Union in November 2012, shortly before his resignation, Johnson delivered an address titled "The conflict against al Qaeda and its affiliates: how will it end?" In that speech, he predicted a "tipping point" at which the U.S. government's efforts against al Qaeda should no longer be considered an armed conflict, but a more traditional law enforcement effort against individual terrorists.

The Oxford Union speech received widespread press attention,[17][18][19] and editorial acclaim in corporate media as the first such statement coming from an Obama administration official.[20]

In December 2015, Jeh Johnson announced in the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Johnson announced plans to roll out a new terror threat warning system.[21]

According to the official narrative, Johnson personally gave the legal approval for U.S. special forces to go into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.[22]

Secretary of Homeland Security

Johnson was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the fourth U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in October 2013, and was subsequently confirmed on December 16, 2013, by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 78–16.[23][24]

When Johnson entered office one of his top priorities was to fill all of the high level vacancies. By April 2015 the President had appointed and the Senate confirmed all but one of Johnson's senior leader positions.[25]

During the summer and fall of 2014, Secretary Johnson oversaw the Department of Homeland Security's response to the ongoing declared Ebola crisis in West Africa.[26] The Department of Homeland Security developed policies, procedures and protocols to identify travelers for screening who could have been potentially infected to minimize the risk to the traveling public.[26] This response was chosen by the Department over limiting travel visas to the United States, which Secretary Johnson contended would have been a mistake given the leadership position of the U.S. and likelihood of influencing other countries to take the same action.[27]

After leaving office in January 2017, Johnson rejoined the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City.[9] He is also a member of the boards of directors of Lockheed Martin,[28][29] U.S. Steel,[30] the Council on Foreign Relations,[31] the National September 11 Memorial & Museum,[32] the Center for a New American Security,[33] WBGO, [34] and a trustee of Columbia University.

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  9. a b c
  15. Finn, Peter (October 19, 2011). "Pentagon lawyer warns against over-militarizing anti-terror fight". The Washington Post. p. A3.
  16. Barnes, Julian E. (February 23, 2012). "Top Pentagon Lawyer Defends Targeted Killings". The Wall Street Journal. p. A11
  26. a b