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Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson To Head Homeland Security

President Obama on Friday nominated Jeh Johnson, who used to be the top lawyer at the Pentagon, to serve as the country's next secretary of Homeland Security.

His nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

During a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden, Obama said Johnson was an "outstanding public servant, who I've known and trusted for years." He said Johnson was a key player in dismantling al-Qaida, as well as leading a legal review of the U.S. drone program. A report he wrote, Obama said, was also crucial in the eventual repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the military policy that prohibited gay men and women from serving openly.

"I was not looking for this opportunity," Johnson said, adding that he had left the Pentagon and was settling into the private sector. "But when I received the call, I could not refuse it."

Johnson said he is a New Yorker and he was in the city when terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He said as he walked the streets of the wounded city that day, he asked himself, "What can I do?"

Ever since, he said, he has been devoted to answering that question.

"I love this country; I care about the safety of our people. I believe in public service and I remain loyal to you, Mr. President. If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation's national and homeland security," Johnson said.

The Department of Homeland Security is currently without a confirmed leader. Former Secretary Janet Napolitano ended her stint six weeks ago to become the president of the University of California system.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.