While presumptive President-elect Joe Biden announces a slew of appeasement-minded Obama-Biden retreads to his Cabinet and advisors, his pick for Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is taking flak from the left. Using the revolving door between the private sector, academia, and government, Avril Haines, an attorney by training, served as the first woman Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DD/CIA) during the Obama administration.
Most significantly, as DD/CIA under Obama, Haines helped CIA Director John Brennan lead Obama’s counter-terrorist drone war, helping determine administration policy on “targeted killings” by drones. A widely-cited 2013 Newsweek profile noted that: “Haines was sometimes summoned in the middle of the night to weigh in on whether a suspected terrorist could be lawfully incinerated by a drone strike.”
Much of the criticism from the left concerns her role in this drone war. As Business Insider reported, “the Obama administration faced heavy criticism from human rights groups and progressives over civilian casualties linked to the drone strikes,” adding, “Obama often faced pressure over the dubious legal justifications and overall lack of transparency surrounding the strikes.”
While Obama preferred not to use military force against terrorists, he admitted feeling pressured not to “look soft.”
The report found there were “10 times more covert airstrikes as part of the war on terror under Obama than Bush.” The left’s concern with Haines is as much a critique of Obama as anything. Andrea J. Prasow, the deputy Washington director of Human Rights Watch, whom Business Insider quoted from the New York Times, explains:
My concerns about her [Haines] are more my concerns about the Obama administration. With these cabinet picks, we are returning to the previous administration instead of making bold and forward-leaning picks.
But the left’s concerns with Haines go beyond drone strikes and targeted killings to her roles in torture and CIA spying on Congress.
As the Insider notes:
Some progressives and critics have accused Haines of complicity in the CIA’s use of torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11…Haines is also remembered for redacting the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the use of torture, and for approving a panel that ultimately decided not to reprimand CIA personnel who spied on the committee’s investigators.
So far, we are seeing the left’s critiques of Haines. How the Republican Senate will see her nomination remains to be seen. Considering her role in not reprimanding CIA operatives for spying on the Senate though, we can at least expect some challenging questions during her confirmation hearings.
We can also expect more interesting debates about Avril Haines in the weeks to come.