President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director Avril Haines arrives for a confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee.(AP)
President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director Avril Haines arrives for a confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee.(AP)

US spy chief nominee Haines vows ‘no place for politics’ in job

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the panel’s acting chairman, told Haines in his opening statement that she should concentrate on the threats posed by China.
Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 09:34 PM IST

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as director of national intelligence is pledging she’ll never let politics affect decision-making in the collection and use of intelligence, as critics said happened under Donald Trump.

“To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power -- even, especially, when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult,” Avril Haines, who would be the nation’s first woman to oversee US intelligence agencies, said in testimony prepared for her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. “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.”

Haines also intends to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that she wants to use intelligence to better support efforts to counter China’s “unfair, illegal, aggressive and coercive actions, as well as its human rights violations,” according to excerpts from her prepared remarks for the hearing.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the panel’s acting chairman, told Haines in his opening statement that she should concentrate on the threats posed by China, which was spared from US challenges by a “flawed bipartisan consensus for almost two decades.”

Biden said when he chose Haines for the position in November that he expected her to help restore independence to intelligence agencies that were subjected to frequent attacks by President Trump, who often portrayed them as part of a “deep state” bent on undermining his presidency.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat, echoed that theme.

“Our intelligence professionals have been unfairly maligned; their expertise, knowledge, and analysis has often been ignored and even sometimes ridiculed by a president who seems oftentimes uninterested in facts contradicting his political interests,” Warner said in his opening statement. “Those who bravely spoke the truth were vilified, reassigned, fired or retaliated against.”

Trump chose enthusiastic Republican supporters in Congress for key intelligence posts, including Michael Pompeo, his first CIA director, and John Ratcliffe, his final director of national intelligence. Haines was introduced at Tuesday’s hearing by Dan Coats, a former Republican senator who held the director’s post under Trump but had a stormy relationship with him.

“To lead our intelligence community, I didn’t pick a politician or a political figure, I picked a professional,” Biden said.

Haines, 51, was the Central Intelligence Agency’s deputy director from 2013 to 2015 under President Barack Obama and was his deputy national security adviser from 2015 to 2017.

Haines says in her prepared testimony that intelligence agencies should apply their capabilities to help end the global coronavirus pandemic “while also addressing the long-term challenge of future biological crises -- enabling U.S. global health leadership and positioning us to detect future outbreaks before they become pandemics.”

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