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|4th United States Secretary of Homeland Security|
December 23, 2013 – January 20, 2017
|Preceded by||Janet Napolitano|
|Succeeded by||John F. Kelly|
|General Counsel of the Department of Defense|
February 10, 2009 – December 31, 2012
|Preceded by||William J. Haynes II|
|Succeeded by||Stephen W. Preston|
|General Counsel of the Air Force|
|Preceded by||Sheila C. Cheston|
|Succeeded by||Mary L. Walker|
Jeh Charles Johnson
(1957-09-11) September 11, 1957
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Susan DiMarco (1994–present)|
|Education||Morehouse College (BA)
Columbia University (JD)
Jeh Charles Johnson (// "Jay"; born September 11, 1957) is an American lawyer and former government official who served as the fourth United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017. He previously was the General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 2009 to 2012 during the first years of the Obama Administration. He is currently a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and a board of directors member at Lockheed Martin Corporation.
Johnson was born in New York City, the son of Norma (Edelin), who worked for Planned Parenthood, and Jeh Vincent Johnson, an architect. Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College (B.A.) and Columbia Law School (J.D.), and 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.
On March 18, 1994, Johnson married Susan Maureen DiMarco, a dentist, at Corpus Christi Church of New York City. The pair grew up across the street from each other in Wappingers Falls, New York. They have two children.
Career before Obama Administration
Johnson served as Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1989 to 1991. From 1998 to 2001, he was General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force under President Bill Clinton. Prior to his appointment as General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Johnson was an associate and then partner at the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, in which he was the first African American partner. He was elected a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2004.
On January 8, 2009, he was named by President-elect Barack Obama to be General Counsel for the Defense Department. In December 2012, he resigned this position effective at the end of the year to return to private practice.
Ten months later, on October 18, 2013, Johnson was nominated by President Obama to be Secretary of Homeland Security.
Johnson began as an associate at Paul, Weiss in November 1984. In 1989, he left to serve as an assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, a position he held until the end of 1991. In that position, Johnson prosecuted public corruption cases.
Air Force General Counsel
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. His tenure coincided with Operation Allied Force in 1999. He was awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service for his efforts.
After his service in the Clinton administration, Johnson returned to Paul, Weiss in 2001, where he was an active trial lawyer of large commercial cases.
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 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, 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.
General Counsel of the Department of Defense
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. In February 2010, the Secretary of Defense appointed Johnson to co-chair a working group, along with Army General Carter Ham, to study the potential impact of a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In November 2010, following an extensive study, Johnson and General Ham reported that the risk to overall military effectiveness of a repeal would be low. The report was hailed as a thorough and objective analysis. The Washington Post editorial page wrote:
The report is remarkable not just for its conclusions but for its honest, thorough and respectful handling of a delicate subject. It offers a clear-eyed, careful, conservative approach to implementing policy change. It doesn't play down the hurdles or denigrate the opposition. It is, in short, a document to be taken seriously, especially by those who may have lingering doubts about allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.
Johnson's tenure as General Counsel was also notable for several high-profile speeches he gave 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."  At a speech at Yale Law School in February 2012, Johnson defended "targeted killings", but also stated:
[A]s a student of history I believe that those who govern today must ask ourselves how we will be judged 10, 20 or 50 years from now. Our applications of law must stand the test of time, because, over the passage of time, what we find tolerable today may be condemned in the permanent pages of history tomorrow.
Finally, at the Oxford Union in November 2012, shortly before his resignation, Johnson delivered a widely noted address entitled "The conflict against al Qaeda and its affiliates: how will it end?" in which 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. Johnson stated:
"War" must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. War permits one man—if he is a "privileged belligerent," consistent with the laws of war—to kill another. War violates the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war parents bury their children. In its 12th year, we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the "new normal." Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives.
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under presidents George W. Bush and Obama, said that Johnson "proved to be the finest lawyer I ever worked with in government—a straightforward, plain-speaking man of great integrity, with common sense to burn and a good sense of humor" and that he "trusted and respected him like no other lawyer I had ever worked with."
According to published reports, Johnson personally gave the legal approval for U.S. special forces to go into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.
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. He was sworn in on December 23, 2013. The Washington Post reported "Johnson, an African-American, would bring racial diversity to Obama's Cabinet."
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. One of Johnson's first major efforts as Secretary was his unity of effort initiative to set the conditions for the Department to operate in a more unified fashion and develop a culture that recognizes and responds adequately to the diverse challenges the Department of Homeland Security faces.
In the spring and summer of 2014 the southern border of the United States experienced a large influx of immigrants, many of whom were children, coming from Central America. Secretary Johnson and his Department worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a response to address the immigrants' needs. In June, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services asylum officers were reassigned to conduct credible fear interviews, while prioritizing the cases of recently apprehended unaccompanied children, adults with children, and other recent border crossers. At the same time, Secretary Johnson asked for the support of Congress to increase border security and prevent more spikes like this from happening again. After the flow of immigrant children to the United States, the Department of Homeland Security established three family residential centers, and they immediately became the focus of much controversy. The ACLU has compared them to Japanese internment camps and in July 2015 a U.S. District Court Judge in California ordered that the family residential centers comply with a 1997 settlement concerning the detention of children.
During the summer and fall of 2014, Secretary Johnson oversaw the Department of Homeland Security's response to the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa. The Ebola epidemic was the largest in history, and impacted multiple West African countries. In response, 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. 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.
After the House of Representatives failed to act on S. 744, Secretary Johnson and President Obama issued ten new executive actions on November 20, 2014 to address the 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States. These actions included, among others, a new Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Strategy, a revision of removal priorities to focus on criminals and national security threats, the end to the Secure Communities program replaced by a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the extension of DACA to Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Johnson is said to have worked heavily on drafting the executive actions at the behest of the President.
In a 60 Minutes profile of Secretary Johnson that aired in April 2015, it was stated: "[s]o far he's gotten high marks, even from the Republicans in Congress. When he came on board, nearly half the senior management jobs were vacant; he's filled all but one; he's boosted morale; and improved the coordination and dissemination of threat information throughout the government."
In May 2015, Secretary Johnson issued reforms that helped minimize detention time for families in residential centers. In June, one year after the increase of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border, Secretary Johnson committed publicly to continually evaluating the policy of family residential centers. The Secretary made personal visits to the family residential centers and spoke with dozens of Central American mothers at the facilities before issuing additional substantial changes to the Department's detention practices with respect to families with children. One major change included releasing families who establish eligibility for asylum or other relief under the law.
Johnson also raised employee morale across the Department. For years, DHS had been plagued by low morale. Johnson launched an aggressive campaign to improve morale across the Department. They made hiring and promotion opportunities more transparent, conducted 55 workforce engagements in 22 cities across the country in 2016, and developed a DHS-wide mission statement. That effort brought good results in 2016, as the annual Federal Employee Survey reflected a 3% increase in the levels of employee satisfaction – the largest single-year increase for any Department the size of DHS.
Speeches and appearances
During his service Secretary, Johnson has given several high-profile speeches. On June 8, 2015 he gave a speech at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University. He focused on the Department of Homeland Security's border security efforts, describing the trends in border crossers decreasing over the past year, and the Obama administration's executive actions issued to address the millions of hard working undocumented immigrants in America. In July he presented the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. He warned of the evolving terrorist threat, from terrorist group trained and directed attacks to terrorist group inspired attacks, and described the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to keep Americans safe.
Secretary Johnson also gave the 56th Green Lecture at Westminster College, the same place where Winston Churchill gave the "Iron Curtain" speech. In his Green Lecture, Secretary Johnson emphasized the use of history as an important tool in shaping the decisions of those in public office. Specifically, he discussed the need to be wary of government overreach when responding to threats and crisis, and how it is during these moments when the U.S. government must work its hardest to preserve the values it cherishes. Johnson stated:
We can erect more walls, install more screening devices, and make everybody suspicious of each other, but we should not do so at the cost of who we are as a Nation of people who cherish our privacy, our religions, our freedom to speak, travel and associate, and who celebrate our diversity and our immigrant heritage. In the final analysis, these are the things that constitute our greatest strengths as a Nation.
In 2017, Johnson appeared in the Yahoo! documentary 64 Hours In October: How One Weekend Blew Up The Rules Of American Politics, about the political turmoil in the 2016 US election during October 7–9, 2016, including the Donald Trump/Billy Bush tape, Hurricane Matthew, the Podesta e-mail leaks, and the U.S report on Russian interference.
Committee to Investigate Russia
Career after Obama administration
After leaving office in January 2017, Johnson rejoined the law firm of Paul Weiss in New York City. He is also a member of the board of directors of Lockheed Martin, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Center for a New American Security. Johnson is a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. In private life he is a frequent commentator on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, FOX and other outlets, and since leaving office has testified before Congress four times on the subjects homeland security and cybersecurity.
In private life, Johnson has sought to expand civility in American politics and dialogue, warning against the rise of extremist speech. In June 2018, he was an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration's family separation practice at the border. Several days later, he wrote to criticize calls to abolish ICE. In July 2019, he wrote a widely noted op-ed in The Washington Post titled "Politics is drowning out consensus on immigration. It's time for some straight talk." Johnson has called for a more civil dialogue from political leaders on both sides of the aisle. In an op-ed for The Hill on February 26, 2019, he wrote:
Leaders do lead, and Americans do follow the examples and standards their leaders set. A downward spiral in the rhetoric of our leaders lowers the bar for all the rest of us, makes the previously intolerable tolerable and, for the dangerously deranged few who lurk in our society, makes violence inevitable.
Johnson is a 2018 recipient of the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, presented at the Reagan Presidential Library on December 1, 2018. He has debated at the Oxford and Cambridge Unions several times. In November 2019, he was made an honorary life member of the Cambridge Union. In 2019, Johnson became an advisory board member of Spirit of America, a 501(c)(3) organization that supports the safety and success of Americans serving abroad and the local people and partners they seek to help.
- Nominations before the Senate Armed Services Committee, First Session, 111th Congress. S. Hrg. 111-362.
- Jeh Johnson, www.paulweiss.com.
- Lockheed Martin elects Jeh Johnson and James Raiclet to the board of directors[permanent dead link], news.lockheedmartin.com, 2017-12-11.
- "Weddings; Jeh C. Johnson and Susan DiMarco". New York Times. March 20, 1994. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- "Johnson, Jeh Vincent 1931– - Dictionary definition of Johnson, Jeh Vincent 1931– - Encyclopedia.com: FREE online dictionary". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Johnson, Charles S., Bitter Canaan: The Story of the Negro Republic Transaction Books (1987), page 1xxiii fn 171.
- Smith Brady, Lois (April 10, 1994). "Vows; Jeh Johnson and Susan DiMarco". New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- "Natalie Johnson in Joe Biden Swears in Jeh Johnson". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Jeh Johnson nominated as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at the Woodrow Wilson Center". Department of Homeland Security. February 7, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Homeland Security nominee Jeh Johnson: 'I am a New Yorker'". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Memoli, Michael A. (December 16, 2013). "Jeh Johnson confirmed as Homeland Security secretary". Retrieved February 1, 2017 – via LA Times.
- "Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson To Head Homeland Security". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Jeh Johnson Biography Archived March 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP. Retrieved on March 13, 2008
- "Jeh Johnson – 1996 40 Under 40 – Crain's New York Business Rising Star". Crain's New York Business. January 1996.
- "Obama names four to top Pentagon posts". Agence France-Presse. January 8, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2009. [dead link]
- Baldor, Lolita C. "Jeh Johnson, Pentagon's Top Lawyer, Resigns" The Huffington Post, December 6, 2012
- Schmidt, Michael S.; Savage, Charlie (October 17, 2013). "Former Pentagon Official to Be Chosen as Homeland Security Chief". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
- Fabian, Jordan (January 20, 2017). "Jeh Johnson is designated survivor for inauguration". The Hill. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
- Cahoon, Ben M. (2000). "Wake Island - Governors (from 1972, U.S. Air Force General Counsels in Washington, D.C.)". World Statesmen. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
1998 - 2001 Jeh Charles Johnson
- John Caher, "Kaye Heads List of Candidates For Court of Appeals' Top Slot", The New York Law Journal, January 18, 2007
- Konigsberg, Eric, "In Clinton’s Backyard, It’s Open Season as an Obama Fund-Raiser Lines Up Donors", The New York Times, February 24, 2007. Retrieved on March 13, 2008.
- Horowitz, Jason, "Clinton Campaign Gets In Gloat Mode With $27 Million Archived December 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine", The New York Observer, October 10, 2007. Retrieved on April 14, 2008.
- Horowitz, Jason, "The Best Place for the Rule of Law", The Boston Globe, April 12, 2008. Retrieved on April 14, 2008.
- Tyson, Ann Scott, "Obama Selects 4 More Senior Defense Officials", The Washington Post, January 9, 2009.
- "U.S. Senate". Archived from the original on February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Editorial, "Undoing the Damage," The New York Times, July 12, 2009
- Ed O'Keefe and Craig Whitlock, "'Don't Ask' opponents get a boost, The Washington Post, December 1, 2010.
- Editorial, "Ready for Change," The Washington Post, December 1, 2010.
- Peter Finn, "Pentagon lawyer warns against over-militarizing anti-terror fight," The Washington Post, October 19, 2011.
- "Top Pentagon Lawyer Defends Targeted Killings," The Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2012.
- Julian Barnes, "Pentagon Lawyer Looks Post Terror, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2012; Charlie Savage, Pentagon Counsel Speaks of Post-Qaeda Challenges," The New York Times, December 1, 2012; Barney Henderson, "Al-Qaeda war nearing tipping point, says US," The Daily Telegraph, Dec 1, 2012; Nick Hopkins, "War on al-Qaida drawing to a close, says Obama lawyer," the Guardian, Dec 1, 2012; Daniel Klaidman, "Will Obama End the War on Terror," Newsweek magazine, Dec 24, 2012.
- See, e.g., Fareed Zakaria, "Time to terminate the war on terror," Washington Post op-ed, December 6, 2012.
- Duty by Robert M. Gates, pp. 283 and 332 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014)
- How 4 Federal Lawyers Paved the Way to Kill Osama bin Laden, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, October 28, 2015
- "Johnson OK'd for Homeland Security". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Jeh Charles Johnson - Homeland Security". January 20, 2017. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Unity of Effort: One Year Later | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. April 22, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- "Statement by Secretary Johnson About the Situation Along the Southwest Border | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. September 8, 2014. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- "I Know an American 'Internment' Camp When I See One". Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- "Ebola Response | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- "Remarks By Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson On "Achieving Our Homeland Security While Preserving Our Values And Our Liberty" At Westminster College – As Delivered". dhs.gov. Department of Homeland Security. September 16, 2015. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
- "Immigration Action | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- "How Obama got here". POLITICO. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
- "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on 60 Minutes". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
- "Statement By Secretary Jeh C. Johnson On Family Residential Centers | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. June 24, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- "Statement by Secretary Johnson Concerning the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey - Homeland Security". September 20, 2016. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Are We Safer?, The Atlantic, Steven Brill, September 2016.
- "Remarks by Secretary Johnson on "Immigration: Perception versus Reality" | Homeland Security". www.dhs.gov. June 8, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- Johnson, Jeh (September 16, 2015). "Remarks By Secretary Of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson On "Achieving Our Homeland Security While Preserving Our Values And Our Liberty" At Westminster College – As Delivered". DHS.
- "Remarks By Secretary Of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson On "The New Realities Of Homeland Security" As Part Of The Landon Lecture Series On Public Issues – As Prepared For Delivery". May 27, 2015.
- News, Yahoo! (October 6, 2017). "64 Hours In October: How One Weekend Blew Up The Rules Of American Politics". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- "Committee to Investigate Russia: Advisory Board". Committee to Investigate Russia. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
- Johnson, Ted (September 19, 2017). "Rob Reiner Helps Launch Committee to Investigate Russia". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
- Cohen, Stephen F. (September 27, 2017). "Do Liberal Democrats Want War With Russia?". The Nation.
- Lat, David. "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Returns Home — To Paul, Weiss". abovethelaw.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- Bur, Jessie (December 11, 2017). "Former DHS director elected to Lockheed Martin board of directors". Federal Times. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Board of Directors". The Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- "Secretary Jeh Johnson, CNAS Board of Director". Center for a New American Security. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- "Hearings - Intelligence Committee". www.intelligence.senate.gov. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 21, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Stephanopoulos, George "'This Week' Transcript 3-17-19: Tom Bossert, Jeh Johnson, Sen. Chris Coons, Vicky Ward." ABC News, ABC News Network, 17 Mar. 2019, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-17-19-tom-bossert-jeh-johnson/story?id=61742546
- Capehart, Jonathan. "Jeh Johnson on Separating Immigrant Families: 'It's Just Something I Couldn't Do'." The Washington Post, WP Company, June 25, 2018
- Johnson, Jeh Charles. "Abolishing ICE Is Not a Serious Policy Proposal." The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 July 2018
- Johnson, Jeh Charles. "Trump-Era Politics Are Drowning out Consensus on Immigration. It's Time for Some Straight Talk." The Washington Post, 6 July 2019
- Johnson, Jeh. "Words Have Consequences: Lessons for Political Leaders on Both Sides." The Hill, February 26, 2019
- "Peace Through Strength Award Recipients Announced for RNDF 2018 - The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute". www.reaganfoundation.org. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Hon. Jeh Johnson". Spirit of America. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- DOD Biography
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- KATE BRANNEN: Jeh Johnson to DHS - Politico.com Morning Defense, Oct. 2013
| General Counsel of the Air Force
| General Counsel of the Department of Defense
| United States Secretary of Homeland Security
John F. Kelly
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