Who is Avril Haines? Joe Biden's pick as director of national intelligence got her brown belt in judo from Japan

Haines, who has a long history of working with the president-elect and served in many key posts in the Barack Obama years, is known for her uncoventional style


                            Who is Avril Haines? Joe Biden's pick as director of national intelligence got her brown belt in judo from Japan
President-elect Joe Biden and director of national intelligence-designate Avril Haines (Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, November 23, selected Avril Danica Haines as the new Director of National Intelligence in his administration which will take over on January 20. The 51-year-old Haines is an attorney who served in the Barack Obama administration in various capacities, including as the National Security Adviser (NSA) between 2015 and 2017.

Born in New York and having studied physics, Haines also worked as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the first woman in the top post, between 2013 and 2015. She will also be the first woman to become the director of national intelligence, a post that was created after the 9/11 attacks.

A brown belt in judo from Japan, Haines was appointed in 2010 to serve in the office of the White House Counsel in the capacity of deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president for national affairs at the White House. In 2013, Obama picked Haines to become the legal adviser of the state department but later decided to make her the No 2 in the CIA, replacing Michael Morell.

Morell and David Cohen, another former CIA deputy director, are also advising the Biden transition and could also get intelligence jobs, NBC News reported citing multiple sources. 

Haines, like many other members in the Biden transition team, has a history of working closely with the former vice president for more than a decade, the president-elect’s transition team said in a release. Haines has already been making a key contribution in helping Biden’s transition procedure by helping policy and agency review teams while herself taking a lead in the national security and foreign policy team.

Haines served as the deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-08 and it was chaired at the time by none other than Biden, according to his transition team. 

Haines backed Trump's pick as CIA chief

The national intelligence director-designate has been known for her unconventional ways. In the mid-1990s, Haines was tired of studying physics and she opened Adrian’s Book Cafe in Fells Point, an eclectic book cafe, with her future husband David Davighi. The store was dedicated to Haines’s mother, who died of tuberculosis when Haines was young by including her paintings.
 
Haines also turned eyeballs when in 2018, she backed President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel as the director of the CIA, a move that stirred controversy, thanks to Haspel’s dubious record in overseeing a secret prison.

Human rights advocates opposed Haspel’s appointment even as Haines called her “intelligent, compassionate, and fair” and someone who has “an unparalleled understanding of the institution, the agency's work, and she will support the workforce - all attributes the agency needs from its director”.

Haines has been associated with several academic institutes since her exit from the Obama administration. She has also been consulted by various companies, including national security data contractor Palantir, which she has advised on the issue of diversity and promoting roles for women in technology. 

The Biden transition team made six Cabinet picks on Monday, including Haines. Besides, Alejandro Mayorkas was picked for the role of the secretary of the homeland security department while Antony Blinken (who Haines succeeded as NSA in 2015) was the choice for the secretary of state. Jake Sullivan was picked as the national security adviser, John Kerry as the special presidential envoy for climate and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.

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