Justice, Homeland Security picks have excellent credentials but not much direct experience.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 2, 2008; Page A11
In nominating former federal prosecutors to lead the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday selected two Democrats with sterling law-and-order credentials but less experience in detecting threats and gathering intelligence in the age of international terrorism.
Eric H. Holder Jr., the candidate to lead the Justice Department, served as the law enforcement agency’s second in command during the waning years of the Clinton administration, overseeing pursuits of violent crime, drug cartels and public corruption offenses. Janet Napolitano, who will run the sprawling Homeland Security bureaucracy, has served since 2003 as governor of Arizona, a border state at the forefront of the nation’s immigration debate.
.S. Attorney General nominee Eric Holder listens as U.S. President-elect Barack Obama announces the nominees to staff his national security team, including Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as his nominee for Secretary of State and Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense during a news conference in Chicago December 1, 2008.REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
Yet neither nominee boasts much direct experience with the most significant and pressing counterterrorism matters that will cross their desks if they are confirmed by the Senate and take office after the January inauguration.
Among them: how to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and assess the danger of detainees; how to reorient a domestic wiretapping program once branded as unlawful even by some Bush administration insiders; whether to expend scarce resources prosecuting the intelligence officers and lawyers who developed the framework for policies that Democrats have roundly criticized; and how to prioritize and allocate resources toward the top domestic threats.
At a news conference in Chicago yesterday, Holder played down the tension between protecting American citizens and respecting civil liberties, signaling that he would work to achieve bipartisan consensus in Congress for policies to attack national security threats.
Napolitano promised that the new Obama team will coordinate across all levels of government to ensure a “fast, sound, level-headed and effective” response to natural as well as terrorist-inflicted disasters.
President-elect Barack Obama (L) listens as Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, his choice for homeland security chief, speaks at a press conference in Chicago, Illinois. The Department of Homeland Security was born in the US government’s greatest reorganization since World War II after the September 11 attacks of 2001 made the threat of terrorism very real.(AFP/Getty Images/Scott Olson)