CABINET HEARING: Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
January 19, 2021
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Haines was questioned about pressing national security concerns, including Russia, China, and Iran. The hearing also focused on the increased politicization of the nation’s intelligence services, with multiple Senators pressing Haines on what actions she will take to counter this trend.
- China – Senators questioned Haines about the importance of confronting China, past US policy toward China, and concerns about Chinese intelligence. There was bipartisan consensus on the importance of the issue. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said dealing with the Chinese Communist Party should be the number one national security priority for the incoming administration. Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) said the past bipartisan consensus that China would abide by international norms was wrong and that the Biden Administration needs to confront malign actions by China. When asked by Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) how the intelligence community should counter Chinese propaganda, Haines said Chinese propaganda is a real problem and noted the U.S. should establish partnerships with state actors around the region and increase counterintelligence training. Chairman Rubio also asked Haines if she has ever consulted for a company that has done business in Xinjiang or taken a position against the Hong Kong Autonomy Act. Haines said she had not.
- Iran – Senators from both parties raised Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Haines noted that Iran poses a serious threat to U.S. national security and that the President-elect has indicated a willingness to re-enter the deal if Iran comes back into compliance. She stressed her commitment to providing the Biden administration with comprehensive, unvarnished, nonpartisan analysis on Iran. Haines said the U.S. is far from rejoining the JCPOA.
- Domestic Terrorism – In light of the recent attack on the Capitol, multiple Senators pressed Haines on what the intelligence community (IC) is doing to counter right-wing domestic terrorism. Haines repeatedly stated that, while domestic terrorism falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), she would assist her counterparts in any way that she could. In response to a question from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), she noted that the IC can support combatting domestic terrorism through identifying connections to foreign actors.
- Cyber Security – Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) noted that Russia perpetrated the most serious cyberattack in U.S. history and exposed a major flaw in U.S. cybersecurity. Haines agreed that the cyberattack, and the fallout from it, is a major concern.
Haines did not draw many objections from Republicans. Chairman Rubio repeatedly praised Haines’ credentials. Former DNI Director and Senator Dan Coates (R-IN) introduced and endorsed Haines.
Haines nomination could be ready for a full Senate vote on Inauguration Day. It is expected that she will sail through the full Senate vote.