Trump picks retired general John Kelly for homeland security
The Guardian – Spencer Ackerman in New York – Monday 12 December 2016
Retired Marine Corps general was in charge of US southern command, including Guantánamo Bay.
Donald Trump has nominated former general John Kelly as homeland security secretary, his transition team has confirmed.
The retired Marine Corps general, who stepped down in 2016 as commander of the US southern command, was widely expected to be the president-elect’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Kelly would “spearhead the urgent mission of stopping illegal immigration and securing our borders” as well as streamline the Transportation Security Administration and improve ties between US intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the Trump team said in a statement.
Kelly said the American people had voted in November “to stop terrorism, take back sovereignty at our borders, and put a stop to political correctness that for too long has dictated our approach to national security”. He added: “I will tackle those issues with a seriousness of purpose and a deep respect for our laws and constitution.”
As head of the US southern command, Kelly was responsible for US military activities and relationships in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the controversial detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.
He differed with Barack Obama on key issues, and has warned of vulnerabilities along the United States’ southern border with Mexico.
Kelly, 66, is the third general tapped for a high-level job in the new administration. Trump also nominated retired Gen James Mattis to lead the Department of Defense and picked retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser.
He is the most senior US officer to have lost a child in the “war on terror”. His son Robert, a first lieutenant in the marines, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010.
At Southcom, Kelly quickly developed a reputation for opposition to Obama’s intended closure of Guantánamo Bay. Kelly confronted a widespread hunger strike by the detainees, protesting the limbo of their treatment and the physical pain of being forcibly tube fed, which had prompted international attention.
Kelly’s response was a press blackout. Guantánamo and Southcom officials stopped providing updates to reporters on the detainees participating in the protest, either on the number of striking detainees or their conditions. To avoid discussing the hunger strike and its rationale, they introduced a euphemism when asked about it: “long-term non-religious fasting”.
The official military guidance document on the subject, the Miami Herald reported, was titled Medical Management of Detainees With Weight Loss, replacing an earlier version titled Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike.
Several US officials involved in Guantánamo issues saw Kelly’s hand in Pentagon obstinacy toward Obama’s plan to close the detention facility. Asked in 2015 whether Guantánamo would in fact close, Kelly said: “If you’re talking about Guantánamo in terms of detention ops, I don’t know. Certainly, the president wants to close it. And until that happens, I will take care of those prisoners in a dignified way that sees to their every need.”
Kelly’s Guantánamo experience has created a deep well of suspicion among human rights campaigners, who are nervously watching DHS in the Trump era for discrimination against Muslims and a new wave of forcible deportations for undocumented immigrants.
Posted by Teri PerticoneShare