Obama nominates ex-Pentagon counsel as Homeland Security chief

Washington, Oct 18 (EFE).- President Barack Obama on Friday nominated former Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson to replace Janet Napolitano as secretary of Homeland Security.

"Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States," Obama said during an appearance with the nominee in the White House Rose Garden.

Johnson, the president said, was "an absolutely critical member of my national security team."

"And I'm confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I'm confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward," Obama said.

Johnson has been involved in working up important national security policies like the controversial drones program, and, when confirmed by the Senate, will assume his new post amid the debate over immigration reform.

Obama urged the Senate to approve Johnson's nomination as soon as possible, since the Department of Homeland Security has been under interim direction since Napolitano stepped down in July.

In the presence of Attorney General Eric Holder and Vice President Joe Biden, among others, Johnson expressed gratitude for the trust shown and the opportunity given him with his appointment to this new position.

"I was not looking for this opportunity - I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice. But when I received the call, I could not refuse it," Johnson said.

Johnson told those present that he is a native New Yorker and that he was in the city on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers.

"I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do? Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question," he said.