Black Americans Securing the Homeland

It isn’t about Condi and Colin anymore.

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Eric Holder

A brilliant lawyer, former federal judge and friend to President Obama, Holder has a combined 20 years of experience at the Justice Department. As the attorney general, Holder has assumed an enormous amount of responsibility for the thorny legal issues that the age of terrorism has wrought. Less high profile than cabinet secretaries Hillary Clinton or Robert Gates, he has nevertheless been a key voice on decisions about national security—from whether to allow military caskets to be shown on television, to releasing the infamous Bush-era “torture memos,” to the administration’s controversial attempts to empty Guantanamo Bay. On his plate now: Deciding whether to release Yemeni prisoners to their homeland and determining the fate of “Category 5” detainees at risk of being held indefinitely in lockup.

Key quote: “I will use every available tactic to defeat our adversaries, and I will do so within the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.”

Susan Rice

The first black woman to lead the U.S. delegation to the United Nations is also the youngest ever member of the National Security Council. Rice, an Africa specialist, has pushed for a human rights-oriented approach to national security since her days in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. Now, she sits in on meetings to plan Afghan strategy as well as coordinate nuclear non-proliferation strategy and trade talks with China. Her belief, shared with Obama, that the “soft power” of diplomacy is equally part of the counterterrorist toolkit, prompted the president to elevate Rice to a cabinet-level position.