What they are saying about Biden’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines

“Today’s hearing with Avril Haines reinforced exactly why she’s the right person to lead our Intelligence Community in this moment of global upheaval. She is a trailblazing pick — the first woman to hold that role — demonstrating what former Republican Senator, and Trump Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats called “the capabilities, qualities and leadership to be the next DNI,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.

“With the world in crisis, it is critical for the Senate to move quickly to confirm Haines to this vital position. The president-elect needs her in place to help lead our national security efforts across the range of threats we face, from public health crises to cyber attacks and terrorist plots,” the team added.

Here’s what they’re saying about Haines’s testimony:

Former DNI Dan Coats via Natasha Bertrand: Former DNI Dan Coats is introducing Haines now. “After several conversations and personal meetings with Avril, there is no doubt in my mind that PE Biden has chosen someone who has all the capabilities, qualities and leadership to be the next DNI,” he says. [Tweet, 01/19/21] 

Senator Ron Wyden: This is huge: Incoming DNI, Avril Haines, just committed to releasing an unclassified report on the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. For two years, I’ve been fighting for transparency and accountability for those responsible. We are closer than ever to getting #JusticeForJamal. [Tweet, 01/19/21] 

Jeff Seldin: “I know you will hit the ground running” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair @MarkWarner tells DNI nominee Avril Haines, adding he is confident she will be confirmed [Tweet, 01/19/21] 

Dan Baer, Former Ambassador to the OSCE: “Yes, Senator…actually, we will follow the law” Avril Haines says, quietly drawing the most important distinction between herself and her soon-to-be immediate predecessors. [Tweet, 01/19/21] 

David Rothkopf: Real leadership.  You’ll see plenty of quality folks on the Biden Team and Avril Haines is among the best of the best. [Tweet, 01/19/21] 

Former CIA Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash via Andrea Mitchell: On Avril Haines confirmation hearing, Jeremy Bash: “She has seen national security decision making from a variety of different vantage points. She’s very close to the incoming leadership of CIA, the NSA Jake Sullivan…” (1/2) #AMRstaff

Bash: “…and the President-Elect and the Vice President-Elect. They have a lot of faith and confidence in her and the job she’ll do.” (2/2) #AMRstaff [Tweet, 01/19/21] 

Oona Hathaway, Yale Law School: Watching this hearing, one can’t help but breathe a huge sigh of relief that the intelligence community will have such deeply informed, smart, measured, depoliticized leadership. She’s also giving a master class in how to handle a hearing like this. [Tweet, 01/19/21]
NYT: Avril Haines, pick for national intelligence director, says she’ll help with a public threat assessment of QAnon.

Avril D. Haines, President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s nominee to be the next director of national intelligence, told senators on Tuesday that she would assist the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security with a public written assessment of the threat from QAnon.

The topic came up at Ms. Haines’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, nearly two weeks after the Capitol was infiltrated by a pro-Trump mob, including some followers of QAnon, a wide-ranging online conspiracy movement that has falsely claimed that President Trump is on a crusade to rid the world of satanic pedophiles organized by the Democratic Party and Hollywood celebrities.

Several Democratic senators on Tuesday asked Ms. Haines about the threat of right-wing extremist groups. In her responses, Ms. Haines had to walk a fine line, as the intelligence agencies are restricted in the information they can collect about Americans and American groups.

She said that if she was confirmed, she would make sure the intelligence agencies “look at connections between folks in the U.S. and externally and foreign,” but made clear that the F.B.I. and Homeland Security must take the lead on such investigations.

She also said that she would help establish a foreign malign influence center in the intelligence community.

Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico, asked Ms. Haines about a letter he wrote to the F.B.I. and Homeland Security Department about QAnon’s “spread of disinformation.”

Mr. Heinrich asked Ms. Haines if she would commit to helping with that assessment. She said she would look for answers on how “foreign influence operations” are affecting QAnon.

“The intelligence community is focused on foreign intelligence and on foreign threats,” she said. “But there is a critical role that it can play and does play in supporting the work that’s done by others.”

AP: Biden DNI pick says no room for politics in intel agencies

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the intelligence community, Avril Haines, promised Tuesday to “speak truth to power” and keep politics out of intelligence agencies to ensure their work is trusted. Her remarks implied a departure from the Trump administration’s record of pressuring intelligence officials to shape their analysis to the president’s liking.

“When it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics — ever,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Haines, a former CIA deputy director and former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, would be the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence, or DNI — a role created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Her testimony kicked off a series of confirmation hearings for Biden’s top national security nominees.

The Hill: Former Trump intel chief Coats introduces Biden nominee Haines at hearing

Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who served under President Trump, on Tuesday introduced Avril Haines, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as DNI, at her Senate confirmation hearing.

“After several conversations with Avril, there is no doubt in my mind that President-elect Biden has chosen someone who has all the capabilities and qualities, experience, and leadership to be the next director of national intelligence,” Coats said ahead of Haines’s opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

According to acting panel Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Coats had been scheduled to appear virtually, but came in person at the last minute. 

Coats, who served as DNI for Trump between 2017 and 2019, described Haines as an “exceptional choice,” praising her stated goal of “bringing non-politicized truth to power and restoring trust and confidence in the intelligence community and the American public.”

Coats left the role of DNI after clashing with Trump on multiple issues during his tenure, most notably over Trump’s comments at a 2018 press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where Trump accepted Putin’s claims that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 presidential election. 

Coats, and much of the intelligence community, strongly pushed back after those remarks.

Coats also publicly disagreed with Trump on concerns around North Korea and threats from the Islamic State. 

If confirmed, Haines will be the first woman to serve as DNI, and pledged during the hearing to keep politics out of her role. 

“To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power — even, especially, when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult,” she testified. “To safeguard the integrity of our intelligence community, the DNI must insist that, when it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics — ever.”

Axios: Biden’s pick for intel chief commits to public assessment of QAnon threat

Avril Haines, President-elect Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence, pledged at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday to conduct a public assessment of the threat of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Why it matters: Many members of the pro-Trump mob involved in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege were seen sporting symbols referencing QAnon, a sprawling and baseless conspiracy theory that purports that President Trump is fighting a vast deep-state cabal of pedophiles.

The FBI has labeled fringe conspiracies like QAnon as potential domestic terror threats.

Driving the news: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked Haines at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee whether she would commit to the assessment, which he first requested from the Trump administration in December.

Haines said she will “work with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security” to produce a report. The former Obama administration official indicated she would also assess how foreign influence operations have exacerbated the spread of QAnon.

The Jerusalem Post: Biden ‘long way’ from rejoining Iran nuke deal, incoming intel chief says

Nominee for US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines said that the US is “a long ways” from rejoining the Iran nuclear deal during her confirmation hearing before the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

Haines was replying to a question from US Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) about US President-Elect Joe Biden’s commitment to rejoin the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action if the Islamic Republic returns to compliance with its nuclear limitations.

“The president-elect has indicated if Iran comes back into compliance,” that he would rejoin the deal, but that things are ‘a long ways from that.’”

She added that, “the president-elect has also indicated in doing so” that he would “have to look at the ballistic missiles you’ve identified and destabilizing activities Iran engages in.”

Haines said she would provide the committee with a full review of Iran’s nuclear activities, even those which might conflict with the incoming Biden administration’s stated goal of rejoining the nuclear deal.

The DNI nominee’s response was significant since some incoming administration officials and Iran experts within the Democratic party have advocated a quick American return to the deal with Tehran, even if issues that concern Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab states have not yet been addressed.

In contrast, Jerusalem, Riyadh and others either oppose a US return to the deal or strongly desire that what they perceive as holes in the deal – not addressing Iran’s ballistic missiles, aggressive regional behavior, the expiration of nuclear limits and certain limits on nuclear inspections – be filled before any return.

Haines did not directly answer Collins’ question about whether she personally had reservations at a strategic level about Biden’s intention to rejoin the deal.

Regarding Iran, she said, “I absolutely agree that Iran is a threat and a destabilizing actor in the region,” and that, “I don’t believe Iran should ever be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.”

She added that she would focus on providing the best intelligence to policymakers so they could best decide how to achieve US goals on Iran.

Haines also addressed the issues about s China, saying, “We should provide the necessary intelligence to support long-term bipartisan efforts to out-compete China – gaining and sharing insight into China’s intentions and capabilities, while also supporting more immediate efforts to counter Beijing’s unfair, illegal, aggressive and coercive actions, as well as its human rights violations.”

Regarding the novel coronavirus crisis, she said, “the DNI should see to it that the Intelligence Community’s unique capabilities are brought to bear on the global COVID-19 crisis around the world, while also addressing the long-term challenge of future biological crises – enabling US global health leadership and positioning us to detect future outbreaks before they become pandemics.”

AFTER ALLEGATIONS of politicizing intelligence in the recent era, she said, “the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power – even, especially – when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult.”

Moreover, “To safeguard the integrity of our Intelligence Community, the DNI must insist that, when it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics – ever.”

Other issues she was pressed to discuss included threats from Russia, social media disinformation campaigns, cyber threats, the space force and new developing global and domestic terror threats.

Haines spent several years as deputy CIA chief and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration after handling a series of complex security issues in other positions.

She moved from being a player in international law issues at the US State Department to becoming a major force in forging counter-terror and drone strike policy during the Obama administration.

When John Brennan, who was Obama’s top adviser on drone strikes, took over the CIA, he eventually brought Haines with him to be his number two.

She had already rubbed elbows with top CIA officials during debates over the targeting rules.

That helped achieve gaining a more powerful position when she had to carry out a restructuring of the agency, especially in the technology and cyber spheres.

Haines is known for multiple run-ins during the aftermath of the post-9/11 US policies permitting waterboarding of certain terrorist detainees.

In 2015, she was assigned to bridge a variety of differences between the CIA and a special US Senate task force led by Diane Feinstein.

In May 2020, Haines joined in signing a letter along with many other Democrat foreign policy experts urging that the party platform take a more forceful position against Israeli settlement activity and press forward with the two-state solution with the Palestinians.

However, she did not take any active role in that campaign and is not associated with taking major positions on Israel issues like some other incoming Biden administration officials.

Former Trump administration DNI Dan Coats introduced her to the committee, strongly recommending her nomination, a clear sign that she would win bipartisan support.

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