Spencer Ackerman of Daily Beast calls it “a proxy war.”
The nomination of Avril Haines to serve as director of the Office of National Intelligence (ODNI) has set off a power struggle between the center-left and center-right factions of the Democratic policy world.
This is a consequential fight, the ODNI overseees–but does not actually run–17 different U.S. intelligence agencies. The combined budgets of these agencies run to $75 billion a year–and most of their activities are classified, off-limits to most U.S. citizens.
Haines, now teased for holdng “erotic nights” at her independent bookstore, is up for a very important job, albeit one with more influence than actual power.
Haines on Torture
On the left, Democratic policymakers want to steer U.S. policy away the Bush-Obama-Trump legacy of torture, regime change, and military intervention. The left argues the Biden administration should link explicitly link foreign and national security poiicy to a domestic economic agenda of climate mitigation and broad-based economic prosperity. They fear Haines’ nomination signals an unimaginative return to what they regard as the failed policies of the past.
The center-right faction, lead by Biden himself, wants to return as much possible to the status quo of the Obama years. Biden wants to repudiate Trump’s legacy but not Obama’s. To unify a polarized electorate, he wants to pursue pragmatic broad-based initiatives on climate, the World Health Organization and the Iran nuclear deal. The center-right policymakers welcome a return to the past where they insist their polices have succeeded.
One key issue: Is torture permissible under a Biden administration? The center right doesn’t want to litigate the issue, preferring in Obama’s words “to look forward, not backwards.” The left wants an unequivocal repudiation of torture as practical and moral failure.
That’s why Dan Jones, former Senate investigator, opposes Haines nomination.
You may know Jones’ story. He was portrayed by the intense Adam Driver in “The Report,” an edgy true-life Washington thriller about how the CIA (and Barack Obama) suppressed the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 report on torture.
The Senate report concluded that not only did the Bush-Cheney torture regime brutalize innocent people, it produced virtually no actionable intelligence and actually has hindered the prosecution of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. (General Michael Hayden and other architects of the torture program dispute the report’s conclusions.)
Unlike current CIA director Gina Haspel, Haines wasn’t directly involved in the torture program but she was involved in cleaning it up. Jones explains how in this excellent Twitter thread.
SOURCE WATCH: Follow @DanielJJones on Twitter. He is an experienced and knowledgable and independent critic of the U.S. security establishment. Highly Recommended)