PICTURED: Avril Haines, Joe Biden’s nomination for Director of National Intelligence.
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 23rd, 2020. Joe Biden’s nomination for Director of National Intelligence, the highest-ranked spy in the United States and to whom most intelligence agencies report to, is a standout in the tale of the Obama-era torture and drone-killing programs.
Described in 2013 as a woman who 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,” former-Deputy National Security Adviser and former-Deputy CIA Director Avril Haines brings a resume of keeping dangerous company.
At the CIA she assisted Gina Haspel, the supervisor of the CIA’s torture program at the time, and she was the second to John Brennan, who was the mastermind behind the assassination program under Obama, as well as the gun-running operations to the violent Wahhabi militias in Syria during the early years of the Syrian Civil War.
In July, shortly after Haines was announced by a then-prospective president Biden, Spencer Ackerman wrote for the Daily Beast that earlier in her career Haines had approved of an “accountability board,” which once applied, “spared CIA personnel reprisal for spying on the Senate’s torture investigators”.
That investigation found that the torture was, as Ackerman described, “vastly more sadistic than known; useless for counterterrorism; and enveloped in an edifice of lies so extensive as to constitute a disinformation campaign against Congress and the public”. Haines was also part of the team that made the redactions for the landmark Senate torture report, infuriating Democrats looking to find out why Obama wasn’t improving the human rights record of the government.
Mark Udall was a Democratic senator on the intelligence committee during this period, and when asked about Haines’ nomination he did not hold back his feelings.
“If our country is going to turn the page on the dark chapter of our history that was the CIA’s torture program, we need to stop nominating and confirming individuals who led this terrible program and helped cover it up,” Udall said.
A brighter side
There is evidence that Haines isn’t all secrets and law-breaking. When appointed in 2013 to Dep. CIA Director under Brennan, it was allegedly her recommendations for legal frameworks that led to an updated drone-bombing policy that saw strikes fall significantly in Pakistan.
Haines would admit that the drone bombing would stay, and that attempts to manage or codify it could seem as legitimizing it, but was convinced that “having a rigorous process and a clear, transparent legal framework that promotes accountability is critical”.
It’s still deeply disputed whether or not the reduction in strikes led to a reduction in a percentage of civilians killed, as the famous Drone Papers report from Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept repeatedly points out, drone operators at the height of the program had almost no way of determining whether or not civilians were killed.
In Somalia and Yemen for example, an internal study on the effects of the drone program that was revealed in the Intercept, found that “[cell] signals accounted for more than half the intelligence collected on targets,” with much of it being provided by local actors, who the study admits are notoriously unreliable.
In a very similar framework to trying to make good policy on an illegal disaster, the Obama-era collective interventions in the Syrian Civil War resulted in a large and now-infamous refugee crisis which Haines allegedly worked tirelessly to help improve. It was her work that saw the cap for refugees entering the U.S. rise twice, once from sixty to seventy thousand, and again to one-hundred fifteen thousand.
Out through the in door
Demonstrating the difference between beltway liberals and true Democrats, many pundits and politicians were happy to hear about “the nicest person you’ll ever meet” becoming America’s top spy.
Bob Menendez, (D – NJ) ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said of the appointment “Avril Haines is exceptionally well-qualified to be the next Director of National Intelligence,” and that her “experience, intellect, values and work ethic will make her an exceptional DNI”.
However she would immortalize herself for many Democrats as an enemy of human rights in the year 2018 for her support of the nomination of Gina Haspel, the supervisor of the CIA’s torture program, for CIA Director, essentially trying to give the keys to the car dealership over to a convicted car thief.
Under the hashtag #FeminismNotMilitarism, the women-led peace group CodePink tweeted that “appointing a woman to be the director of national intelligence DOES NOT justify, atone, or excuse the U.S. intelligence community’s murderous drone strikes and violent counterterrorism strategies.”
Appointing a woman to be the director of national intelligence DOES NOT justify, atone or excuse the US intelligence community’s murderous drone strikes and violent counterterrorism strategies. #FeminismNotMilitarismhttps://t.co/wX0euHl7t9
— CODEPINK (@codepink) November 23, 2020
There’s also a sense that the Biden team is trying to whitewash Haines’ long record. Earlier this year the Intercept reported that Haines’ bio on the Brookings Institute, where she was also then-described as a non-resident senior fellow, was suddenly scrubbed of any mention of her working as a consultant with the controversial data-mining firm Palantir.
A search at Brookings today yields nothing about Palantir, but a website that allows you to look at past incarnations of websites reveals the consultancy role. The Intercept could not get Brookings to comment on the perceived cover-up.
Trump bestowed a slew of government contracts upon Palantir, and utilized their data mining talents to increase seize and deport operations of illegal immigrants, as well as believed to have increased the capabilities of the U.S. domestic-aimed surveillance.
Along with being used by the DHS, NSA, FBI, Marine Corps, Special Operations Command, the Air Force, and ICE, Palantir also overtook Google as heading up Project Maven, a contract to develop AI systems to analyze footage captured by drones potentially worth $250 million.
While the behavior of the company is nothing to pin on someone holding a consultancy role, one which Haines has apparently noted was only about how to diversify gender and get more women into aggressive defense contractor IT work. However it does raise questions, especially considering the Brookings whitewashing, that she is just another political entity moving through the revolving door of government to defense contracting and back again.
Continue exploring this topic — Biden Has a Chance to Correct the Mistakes He Doesn’t Believe He Made in Afghanistan
Continue exploring this topic — Biden’s Iran Policy Could be Diplomatic Even While Facing Opposition from Democrats in Congress