Avril Haines to Become First Woman Director of National Intelligence: “I Have Never Shied Away From Speaking Truth To Power”

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Just before Thanksgiving, President-Elect Joe Biden introduced six national security appointees who will serve key roles in his administration.

Avril Haines, the next director of national intelligence, took the stage alongside Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris to accept her nomination. She also voiced her perceived responsibilities in serving the U.S. government, come Jan. 20, 2021.

In what was perhaps a subtle condemnation of President Donald Trump’s leadership style, Haines used her speech to emphasize the public service component of her position—and throw shade on her predecessors, like John Ratcliffe, who current serves in the role and, as recently as Sunday, continues to deny that Trump lost the election.

“I know, Mr. President-Elect and Madam Vice President-Elect, that you have selected us not to serve you, but to serve on behalf of the American people,” Haines said. “You know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power. And that will be my charge as director of national intelligence.

“I’ve worked for you for a long time, and I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise,” Haines continued, “and that you value the perspective of the intelligence community. And that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult, and I assure you there will be those times.”

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Haines will be the first woman to hold her prospective position in American history. She previously served as principal deputy national security advisor, legal advisor and assistant to the President under the Obama administration, following a stint as the first woman deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2013 to 2015. 

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Up until June 2020, when she joined Biden’s transition team to head up national security and foreign policy, she was a Columbia University senior research scholar and John Hopkins University senior fellow. She simultaneously served as a member of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Haines’s nomination signals consistent progress in the intelligence sphere. Whereas she was the first woman to hold the second highest ranking position in the CIA in 2013, Gina Haspel was later confirmed as the first woman director in 2018. Biden appointing a woman to lead the intelligence community in 2020 shatters a final glass ceiling.

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Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.