Senate confirms Avril Haines as Biden’s intelligence director

Washington, Jan 20 (efe-epa).- The United States Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly confirmed Avril Haines as the country’s new director of national intelligence, the first confirmation among the nominees put forward for his Cabinet by newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden.

The bipartisan vote confirming Haines in the post was 84-10.

Haines thus becomes the first woman to serve in the post of national intelligence director, the official tasked with coordinating the 17 agencies within the US intelligence community.

At her first confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Haines had pledged to keep politics out of intelligence, saying that “To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power. Especially when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult.”

“Avril Haines was the right choice for Director of National Intelligence. We appreciate the bipartisan cooperation to get her confirmed tonight, and we hope there will be a lot more of it because the nation is in crisis and we need President Biden’s team in place as quickly as possible,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.

“I believe she is firmly committed to rebuilding the office of the Director of National Intelligence,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that morale in the intelligence community has been damaged with officials and staff having “seen many of their leaders fired for simply doing the right thing: speaking truth to power.”

Warner’s comments were an allusion to the contentious and politicized relationship between former President Donald Trump and the intelligence community.

During her confirmation hearing, Haines enumerated the threats facing the US, including the efforts of “traditional state actors,” as well as the transnational nature of the climate crisis, cyberattacks, terrorism, organized crime on the global level and disinformation campaigns.

Haines, 51, has broad experience in intelligence, having served as the No. 2 official in the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013-2015 and on the White House national security team of former President Barack Obama from 2015-2017.

She has a rather heterogeneous profile, having first studied physics and then getting a law degree before going to work in the Senate as deputy chief counsel for upper house Democrats under then-chairman Biden when he was a senator from Delaware.

Biden later served for Obama’s two terms as his vice president.

After confirming Haines, the Senate adjourned for the day, but will resume its work on Thursday at noon.

On Tuesday, various Senate committees began holding confirmation hearings for five people Biden had selected prior to his inauguration. Besides Haines, those potential Cabinet officials are Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary, Lloyd Austin for Defense secretary, Tony Blinken for secretary of state and Alejandro Mayorkas for Homeland Security secretary.

On Thursday, the first confirmation hearing for Pete Buttigieg for Transportation secretary will be held.

Until officials are confirmed to head them, federal agencies will be overseen by acting officials.

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