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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/30/20

Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence

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From Smirking Chimp

By Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd

Avril Haines
Avril Haines
(Image by World Economic Forum from flickr)
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Even before President-Elect Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, the Senate Intelligence Committee may start hearings on his nomination of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Barack Obama's top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 followed by CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2015, Haines is the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. She is the affable assassin who, according to Newsweek, would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East. Haines also played a key role in covering up the U.S. torture program, known euphemistically as "enhanced interrogation techniques," which included repeated water boarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dousing naked prisoners with ice cold water, and rectal rehydration.

For these reasons, among others, the activist groups CODEPINK, Progressive Democrats of America, World Beyond War and Roots Action have launched a campaign calling on the Senate to reject her confirmation.

These same groups ran successful campaigns to dissuade Biden from choosing two other warmongering candidates for critical foreign policy positions: China-hawk Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense and torture apologist Mike Morell for CIA Director. By hosting calling parties to Senators, launching petitions and publishing Open Letters from DNC delegates, feminists -- including Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinemand -- Guantanamo torture survivors, activists helped derail candidates who were once considered shoo-ins for Biden's cabinet.

Now activists are challenging Avril Haines.

In 2015, when Haines was CIA Deputy Director, CIA agents illegally hacked the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart the Committee's investigation into the spy agency's detention and interrogation program. Haines overruled the CIA's own Inspector General in failing to discipline the CIA agents who violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers. According to former CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, she not only shielded the hackers from accountability but even awarded them the Career Intelligence Medal.

And there's more. When the exhaustive 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture was finally complete, after five years of investigation and research, Haines took charge of redacting it to deny the public's right to know its full details, reducing the document to a 500-page, black-ink-smeared summary.

This censorship went beyond merely "protecting sources and methods"; it avoided CIA embarrassment, while ensuring her own career advancement.

Moreover, Haines supported torture apologist Gina Haspel as Trump's CIA Director. Haspel ran a secret black site prison in Thailand where torture was regularly inflicted. Haspel also drafted the memo ordering the destruction of almost 100 videotapes documenting CIA torture.

As David Segal of Demand Progress told CNN, "Haines has an unfortunate record of repeatedly covering up for torture and torturers. Her push for maximalist redactions of the torture report, her refusal to discipline the CIA personnel who hacked the Senate and her vociferous support for Gina Haspel -- which was even touted by the Trump White House as Democrats stood in nearly unanimous opposition to the then-nominee to lead the CIA -- should be interrogated during the confirmation process."

This sentiment was echoed by Mark Udall, a Democratic senator on the intelligence committee when it finished the torture report. "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."

Another reason Haines's nomination should be rejected is her support for the proliferation of killer drones. There has been a concerted effort by former Obama colleagues to paint Haines as a voice of restraint that tried to pro­tect­ civil­ians. But according to former CIA whistleblower Kiarikou, Haines regularly approved the drone bombings that killed not only suspected terrorists, but entire families, including children, who died as collateral damage. "It was Avril that decided whether it was legal to incinerate someone from the sky," said Kiriakou.

When human rights groups denounced Obama's rash use of extrajudicial killings, including the assumption that all military-age male s in the strike zone were "enemy combatants" and therefore legitimate targets, Haines was enlisted to co-author a new "pres­i­den­tial pol­i­cy guid­ance" to tighten the regulations. But this new "guidance," issued on May 22, 2013, continued to blur the line between civilians and combatants, nor­mal­izing tar­get­ed assas­si­na­tions and effectively repudiating the "presumption of innocence" that has been the bedrock principle of civilian law for over 800 years.

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Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace and author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. 

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