WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, former White House aide and Harvard professor, is under consideration to be the U.S. State Department’s top human rights official, sources familiar with the matter said.
If chosen, Power, an outspoken defender of human rights who wrote a study of the U.S. government’s failure to prevent genocide in the 20th century, could become a strong voice in the administration for a more muscular U.S. role in protecting rights in such places as Syria, China and Sudan.
The sources said Power was a candidate to serve as under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, a post that oversees the department’s work in areas ranging from counterterrorism to democracy promotion.
“That is a strong possibility,” said one source, who is in regular contact with the State Department, of Power’s possible nomination by U.S. President Barack Obama. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cautioned it was always possible that someone else could be selected in the end.
The White House and the State Department declined comment on the possibility of Power’s nomination.
After covering the Balkan wars of the 1990s as a journalist, Power won the Pulitzer Prize for her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” a study of U.S. policy responses to genocide during the 20th century.
Should she be nominated, it would be a revival of sorts for the Harvard Law School-trained lawyer, who resigned as an adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign after calling his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton a “monster.”
Power stepped down after the British newspaper The Scotsman quoted her as saying of Clinton: “She is a monster, too - that is off the record - she is stooping to anything.”
Obama subsequently named Clinton as his secretary of state during his first term in office, while Power joined the White House as senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the national security staff.
While her White House job had a relatively low profile, Power was widely reported to have argued for the U.S. decision to intervene militarily in 2011 to support the rebels who eventually toppled long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Should Power, who left the White House earlier this year, move to the State Department as under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights, she is likely to have a higher public profile.
That post oversees the State Department offices that handle conflict and stabilization operations; counterterrorism; democracy, human rights and labor; international narcotics and law enforcement; and population, refugees and migration; human trafficking and global criminal justice.
In February, the website of Foreign Policy magazine cited several sources as saying Power could return to government to replace Maria Otero as the under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights.
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Warren Strobel; Editing by Lisa Shumaker