Haines Wins Senate Confirmation as U.S. Intelligence Chief
(Bloomberg) -- The Senate confirmed Avril Haines on Wednesday as director of national intelligence, the first woman to oversee the nation’s spy agencies and the first member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet to win approval.
The 84-10 vote for confirmation came hours after Biden’s inauguration.
Haines pledged during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday that she’ll never let politics affect decision-making in the collection and use of intelligence.
“To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power -- even, especially, when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult,” Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “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.”
Still awaiting confirmation are other members of Biden’s national security team who have already had their Senate committee hearings -- Antony Blinken for secretary of state, retired General Lloyd Austin for defense secretary and Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Biden thanked the Senate in a tweet “for putting partisanship aside” to confirm Haines.
Haines takes over as U.S. intelligence and national security agencies are reeling from years of attacks by former President Donald Trump, who called them part of a “deep state,” and in the aftermath of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists.
Haines said at her confirmation hearing that intelligence agencies will play a crucial “supporting role” in fighting domestic terrorists by investigating any foreign ties to such groups. “There are some international connections” to white nationalists in the U.S., she said.
She also pledged to use intelligence to better support efforts to counter China’s “unfair, illegal, aggressive and coercive actions, as well as its human rights violations.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement as the Senate voted that he looks “forward to working with Director Haines as she oversees the efforts of our nation’s 18 intelligence agencies, including efforts to comprehensively address the multifaceted national security and counterintelligence threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas told reporters he dropped his objections to Haines after she assured him she wouldn’t reopen old cases involving practices by CIA operatives in the war on terrorism that critics consider torture.
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.
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