Biden picks an Obama administration intelligence community veteran to be the first woman to serve in the role.
President-elect Joe Biden has selected Avril Haines to be the next Director of the Office of National Intelligence, or ODNI. Haines has served as deputy CIA director, deputy national security advisor and deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs, all during the Obama administration. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first woman to lead the ODNI office.
Democratic lawmakers and intelligence community veterans were quick to applaud the news.
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-Rhode Island, who leads the intelligence and emerging threats panel of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement: “From the first time she briefed me on the Intelligence Committee while serving as Deputy Director of the CIA, I have been impressed by Ms. Haines’s candor, insight, and deep policy knowledge, and I know she will do a terrific job as the first woman to lead the intelligence community.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, issued a statement calling her “smart & capable, with a background that will serve her well as Director of National Intelligence. The sooner we can get her confirmed as DNI to start fixing the damage the last 4 years have done to our intelligence agencies, the better.”
Susan Hennessy, a former attorney in the NSA’s general counsel office who is currently the executive editor of the blog Lawfare, said, “The project of restoring trust in the intelligence community will be immensely difficult and immensely important. Avril Haines is the very best of the best.”
Larry Pfeiffer, a longtime CIA veteran who now leads the Hayden Center, said on Twitter, “Avril Haines brings a combination of closeness to the President-elect, intellect, thoughtfulness, and forthrightness that could make her among the strongest DNIs ever! Plus she's just so damned nice! Congratulations, Avril!”
Journalist Jeff Stein discussed the nomination with James Clapper, who served as DNI under Obama. Clapper called Haines “an inspired choice,” and said, “Her character, impeccable integrity, work ethic, selflessness, and humility, and fundamental goodness,” would serve her well in the role. “She believes in facts and evidence. Leadership in intelligence is fundamentally motivating people to use their intellects. She will excel at that.”
Those reactions mark a stark change from the reception that greeted current DNI John Ratcliffe. The White House proposed to nominate the then-Congressman in August 2019, but withdrew after even Republicans complained that his resume was light (and partially embellished.) Ratcliffe was confirmed this May, despite widespread concerns that he might politicize or misrepresent intelligence products to help President Trump.
After leaving the Obama White House, Haines briefly worked for controversial data analytics company Palantir before joining the Brookings Institute as a non-resident fellow. As The Intercept observed in June, she has recently been playing down her stint with Palantir: “Haines’s biography page at the Brookings Institute, where she is listed as a nonresident senior fellow, boasted of this affiliation until at least last week, when it suddenly no longer appeared on the page.”