WASHINGTON – The election of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to Director of National Intelligence, Avril D. Haines, is a politically moderate national security expert who is likely to receive endorsement in a sharply divided Senate, but on heavy criticism from the US Left.
The election of Ms. Haines, who would become the first woman to serve as the country’s top intelligence officer, sparked concern among some human rights groups who questioned her role as the architect of the Obama administration’s program against terrorists using drones, some of which killed civilians. However, her defenders argue that Ms. Haines helped put in place safeguards for the use of force and greater transparency for the drone program.
Ms. Haines, an international law expert, has worked for the Obama and Bush administrations in jobs for the National Security Council, the State Department, and the C.I.A. She also has one of the most interesting unclassified backgrounds of any of the top intelligence picks. She is a trained physicist, a brown belt in judo, a pilot who nearly fell in the North Atlantic with her future husband, and a former coffee shop and bookseller who helped revive Baltimore as a community activist.
“It is clear that she has many interests,” said John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. Boss who selected her as the agency’s deputy director. “Even, you know, bohemian.”
If this is confirmed, Ms. Haines, 51, must rebuild an intelligence community openly vexed by President Trump over the assessment that Russia intervened on his behalf in the 2016 election and depoliticize the office of the National Intelligence Director’s office.
While intelligence chiefs have traditionally been impartial and focused on providing facts, the two former directors of the national secret service, John Ratcliffe and Richard Grenell, who served on an acting basis, were bitter partisan defenders of Mr. Trump.
Mrs. Haines was co-author of one Article in foreign policy This year there have been concerns about the politicization of intelligence under the Trump administration.
At the Obama White House, Ms. Haines served as national security legal advisor from 2010, a position associated with overseeing undercover C.I.A. Programs, including the drone strikes, and classified Pentagon operations. She then served as Deputy C.I.A. Director from 2013 to 2015, after which she returned to the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor and chaired the Agencies Committee that developed policy options for Mr. Obama in the last few years of his tenure.
Early in her government career, Ms. Haines developed a reputation for her intellect and for starting work early in the day and continuing late into the night. Her husband only had a short break to deliver dinner.
“She’s just a workhorse,” said John B. Bellinger III, a senior Bush administration attorney who promoted Ms. Haines to a senior legal position in the State Department. “She works about 23 hours a day.”
In 2007, Ms. Haines served as an attorney on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Mr. Biden was chairman. This was an early chance for her to work closely with the future president-elect.
“She will be Biden’s main secret service advisor,” Bellinger said. “That she has a longstanding relationship of trust with him will make her enormously influential.”
A close examination of Ms. Haines’ early life could not suggest that she was committed to the top intelligence job. She attended the University of Chicago as a student, studied physics, and worked as an auto mechanic. She also began taking flying lessons from an instructor she would later marry, David Davighi.
ONE Profile of Ms. Haines in Newsweek In 2013, it was described how Ms. Haines and Mr. Davighi bought a twin-engine airplane and began rebuilding it in hopes of flying it from Maine to England. They made it to Atlantic Canada when the engines failed and forced an emergency landing in Labrador.
After graduating from college, Ms. Haines moved to Baltimore with Mr. Davighi, where she eventually bought a bar that had been confiscated by the government in a drug robbery and converted it into an independent bookstore and coffee shop.
Years later, when Ms. Haines became deputy director of the C.I.A. was appointed, Washington journalists had fun Reporting on occasional erotic literary nights The bookstore was hosted in the mid-1990s. At a meeting attended by a reporter from Baltimore Sun, Ms. Haines began the reading with a fairy tale by Anne Rice and then gave the reporter a spirited defense of the “Spontaneity, twists and turns” of erotic fiction.
Ownership of the bookstore resulted in some organizational work that led Ms. Haines to Georgetown University Law Center, where she discovered international legal work.
While she was a former C.I.A. The deputy director, Ms. Haines, does not have a long career in direct work for intelligence agencies. Still, she has extensive experience overseeing covert programs, leading White House situation room discussions on national security issues, and translating intelligence issues for White House political leaders.
Ms. Haines had been selected to return to the State Department that had been selected to serve as legal advisor when Mr. Brennan made her his deputy after it was confirmed that he would lead the C.I.A. in 2013. Mr. Brennan, a career C.I.A. Officer said he wanted an outsider to help him.
“She is by no means an ideologist,” he said. “She’s likely to be criticized by people on different ends of the spectrum, but she has a very practical and pragmatic point of view.”
Some human rights organizations have expressed concern that Mr Biden’s election of Ms. Haines signaled a return to the Obama administration’s national security policy rather than looking for more liberal alternatives. Progressive groups have long argued that the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism programs constituted extrajudicial killings and were illegal under international law.
“My concern about them is more like my concern for the Obama administration,” said Andrea J. Prasow, assistant director of Human Rights Watch in Washington. “With these cabinet picks, we are going back to the previous administration rather than making bold and forward-looking picks.”
In her Senate confirmation, Ms. Haines will likely have questions about the drone program and how the C.I.A. worked with lawmakers investigating the agency’s interrogation program. At the time, senators accused the C.I.A. They broke into computers used to supervise them and sparked a bitter feud between lawmakers and the agency.
Some progressives were also upset by Ms. Haines’ decision to appoint Gina Haspel as the second C.I.A. from Mr. Trump to support. Director. Ms. Haspel’s work at the C.I.A. Torture program, Progressive said, should have disqualified them.
Other liberals are concerned that Ms. Haines is not someone who is making big changes in national security and counter-terrorism programs.
Ms. Prasow said that despite her differences of opinion with Ms. Haines, she had great respect for her. While some government officials listen, Ms. Haines is not only committed to human rights groups, but tries to incorporate criticism into her political work.
“She is one of the nicest people I have ever met and probably the nicest person I have ever met who has worked for the US government,” said Ms. Prasov.
Obama administration veterans said Ms. Haines’ true ability was listening to and engaging with stakeholders, a critical component in making lasting national security policy changes. In one (n Interview with The Daily Beast Last summer, Ms. Haines said a focus on the government process was needed.
“I can understand people who are wondering if I am someone who can help promote big change where it is needed,” she said. “And for what it’s worth, I think I’m just the right person to make such changes if necessary.”