Who is Avril Haines - Director of National Intelligence: Profile, Life, and Career
Avril Danica Haines. Photo: NPR

Who is Avril Haines?

Avril Danica Haines is an American lawyer and former government official who served as the White House Deputy National Security Advisor in President Barack Obama's administration.

She is the first woman to have held the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency position.

Avril Haines is a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University; a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; a member of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service; and a principal at WestExec Advisors.

During the last administration, Dr. Haines served as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor. She also served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council.

Dr. Haines received her bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. She serves on a number of boards and advisory groups, including the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Bio Advisory Group, the Board of Trustees for the Vodafone Foundation, and the Refugees International Advisory Council, according to Centerforhealthsecurity.

What will Avril Haines do as director of national intelligence?

On November 24, Biden formally announced his first appointments to his cabinet and senior White House leadership, a national security and foreign policy team. He appointed Haines as the director of national intelligence. Biden said his appointments are "a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it" and said they will "confront our adversaries and not reject allies."

According to the government website, the ODNI works to "lead intelligence integration and forge an intelligence community that delivers the most insightful intelligence possible." Haines will lead the US' counterterrorism, counterproliferation and counterintelligence efforts, as the Sun reported.

But it was Haines' work for the Obama administration — where she helped oversee a controversial drone strike program — that solidified her professional reputation, firstly as the deputy director of the CIA and later as Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

“She’s a fierce advocate for telling the truth,” Biden said as he announced her appointment.

“If she gets word of a threat coming to our shores, like another pandemic or foreign interference in our elections, she will not stop raising alarms until the right people take action. People will be able to take her word because she always calls it as she sees it.”

If Haines is confirmed by Congress, she will become the first woman to lead America’s intelligence community — a coalition of 17 organisations ranging from the National Security Agency to the FBI and the State Department.

It’s the kind of shift that many believe is sorely needed in the aftermath of Donald Trump, whose critics say spent the past four years undermining national security, politicising key intelligence roles and ignoring the expert advice of his own agencies.

Note, for example, last year’s firing of inspector-general Michael Atkinson, the public watchdog who informed Congress of a whistleblower’s complaint that Trump had abused his office by trying to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into the Biden family.

Or the appointment of loyalists who could do the President’s bidding: acting director Richard Grenell, who declassified documents to amplify Trump’s “Obamagate” theories; and the current Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, who released unverified information involving Hillary Clinton and squeezed Democrats out of intelligence briefings, according to SMH.

Why is Avril Haines's nomination significant?

Who is Avril Haines - Director of National Intelligence: Profile, Life, and Career
Photo: SBS Baltimore

Haines is the first woman to step into the Director of National Intelligence role.

Representative Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island who leads the intelligence and emerging threats panel of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement:

“From the first time she briefed me on the Intelligence Committee while serving as Deputy Director of the CIA, I have been impressed by Ms. Haines’s candor, insight, and deep policy knowledge, and I know she will do a terrific job as the first woman to lead the intelligence community.”

Biden's other appointments include Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, and Jake Sullivan as his national security adviser.

The president-elect said while his appointments have "experience in leadership," they also bring "fresh perspectives" from which he pledged to be told "what I need to know, not what I want to know."

What are Avril Haines’ ties to Baltimore?

Haines, 51, was born into a Manhattan household to two scientist parents, Adrian Rappin and Thomas Haines, according to a 2013 article in Newsweek. Rappin became an artist whose oil paintings appeared in The New York Times.

Her mother had tuberculosis, and her health deteriorated when Haines was young, Newsweek reported. Haines was responsible for taking care of her mother by the age of 12. Her mother died when she was a teenager.

After receiving a degree in physics from the University of Chicago, Haines moved to Baltimore to pursue a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. But Haines dropped out and followed another dream, opening Adrian’s Book Cafe in Fells Point, an eclectic bookstore cafe at 714 S. Broadway with her husband, David Davighi.

The store paid tribute to her mother, featuring her paintings. It became known for monthly readings of erotic literature.

“Erotica has become more prevalent because people are trying to have sex without having sex,” Haines told The Sun. “Others are trying to find new fantasies to make their monogamous relationships more satisfying. ... What the erotic offers is spontaneity, twists and turns. And it affects everyone.”

“The atmosphere in this cozy room with red candles resembles a slightly-awkward dinner party for eight,”

The Director of National Intelligence serves as the head of the U.S. Intelligence Community, overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program and acting as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security. The President appoints the DNI with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The DNI works closely with a President-appointed, Senate-confirmed Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence to effectively integrate all national and homeland security intelligence in defense of the homeland and in support of U.S. national security interests, as DNI cited.

Authorities & Duties

The National Security Act of 1947, as amended by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, provides that the DNI is the head of the Intelligence Community and designates the DNI as the principal intelligence advisor to the President. To that end, Congress has provided the DNI with a number of authorities and duties, including to:

Ensure that timely and objective national intelligence is provided to the President, the heads of departments and agencies of the executive branch, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior military commanders, and the Congress.

Establish objectives and priorities for collection, analysis, production and dissemination of national intelligence.

Ensure maximum availability of and access to intelligence information within the Intelligence Community.

Develop and ensure the execution of an annual budget for the National Intelligence Program based on budget proposals provided by IC component organizations.

Oversee coordination of relationships with the intelligence or security services of foreign governments and international organizations.

Ensure the most accurate analysis of intelligence is derived from all sources to support national security needs.

Develop personnel policies and programs to enhance the capacity for joint operations and to facilitate staffing of community management functions.

Oversee the development and implementation of a program management plan for acquisition of major systems, doing so jointly with the Secretary of Defense for DoD programs, that includes cost, schedule, and performance goals and program milestone criteria.

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