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Biden’s Director of National Intelligence Covered Up CIA Spying on Senators

Avril Haines is being praised as the first woman Director of National Intelligence. But she’s no different than her predecessors: a China hawk who supported torture, hid CIA spying on senators, and has lobbied for defense contractors.

Samuel Karlin

February 2, 2021
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New Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, speaking at her confirmation hearing
Image: AP/Joe Raedle

Avril Haines, confirmed on Inauguration Day, is already serving as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the Biden administration. She’s the first woman in the post, so — as expected — the corporate media is praising her for shattering a glass ceiling, as have many of Biden’s cabinet appointments. But that doesn’t change who Haines is and what she stands for: yet another member of the national security team with corrupting corporate ties and a disregard for human rights.

Like everyone else on Biden’s national security team, Haines spent the Trump years as a lobbyist for the defense industry. At the time of her nomination, she was a board member of the Center for New American Security (CNAS), a foreign policy think tank funded by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and BAE Systems — among others of the country’s leading makers of weapons systems and military aircraft. As the Nation magazine has reported, CNAS pushed for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 and encouraged the Obama administration to lengthen its deadlines for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Until late June 2020, Haines was also a consultant for the private data firm Palatir, which worked with the Trump administration to expand mass surveillance of immigrant communities. Haines made sure to scrub her involvement with Palantir from her professional bio when it became clear she was going to be nominated for the DNI position.

Haines has promised that national intelligence agencies will “speak truth to power” under her leadership. That’s the exact opposite of what she did as CIA deputy director in the Obama administration. Haines fought the Senate Intelligence Committee’s efforts to declassify parts of a report that looked into the CIA’s use of torture, and then refused to discipline anyone at the CIA when the agency was caught spying on the committee. (The episode is dramatized in the 2019 film The Report.)

The Haines confirmation hearing had a lot of emphasis on the importance of “non-partisan” and “apolitical” intelligence — a line Biden and his appointees, including nominee for CIA director Bill Burns, have used on multiple occasions. “Apolitical” intelligence for a government of bipartisan imperialist aggression around the world is, or course, an illusion..

Biden’s national security team, including Haines, is particularly aggressive towards China. Cold War-like rhetoric targeted at China has increased as the country continues to present a rising challenge to U.S. dominance over global trade, especially surrounding the tech industry. More than half of the Senate Intelligence Committee members who questioned Haines in her confirmation hearing made a point of raising this, seeking assurance of Haines’ commitment to treating China as a threat. Some of their statements were especially alarming. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suggested that the Chinese Communist Party is “cultivating” American political figures to serve its interests. Michael Bennet (D-CO) expressed a desire to compete with China in space. Haines promised her full support to confront China every step of the way.

The full Senate confirmed Haines by a vote of 84 to 10. The new DNI is part of the military-industrial complex, has opposed even the most minimal accountability on the part of the violent CIA, and it committed to what matters most in her job — the interests of the U.S. capitalist class. In other words, she’s just like all her predecessors.

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Samuel Karlin

Samuel Karlin is a socialist with a background in journalism. He mainly writes for Left Voice about U.S. imperialism and international class struggle.

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