Avril Haines to be Appointed CIA’s First Female Deputy Director

Mike O'Brien

The CIA is to get its first female Deputy Director when Michael Morell retires in August, Director John Brennan has announced.

White House lawyer Avril Haines has served for three years as President Obama’s deputy counsel in charge of national security issues and as legal adviser to the National Security Council.

She has never worked for the CIA, but Mr. Brennan said "she knows more about covert action than anyone in the U.S. government outside of the CIA."

Ms. Haines, 43, worked with Mr. Brennan on the revision of the of drone-campaign rules that was recently announced by the President.

In his statement to CIA agents on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan said: "She has participated in virtually every Deputies and Principals Committee meeting over the past two years and chairs the Lawyers’ Group that reviews the Agency’s most sensitive programs."

He applaued her performance in the White House, saying: "I spent a lot of time on matters involving the law" and "noticed similarities between the intelligence and legal professions."

He added that both need to make sure "facts are correct and distinguish between facts, analysis, assessments and inference. Avril epitomizes those qualities."

"When I was told by Michael that he was leaving, I wrote down different types of qualities I wanted.

"One of those was to make sure the individual understands that the role of intelligence is not to advocate for policy positions, but to make sure we are able to collect the best intelligence possible and present it to policymakers as concisely and clearly as possible."

Despite the plaudits, Ms. Haines has big shoes to fill. Mr. Morell worked for the CIA for 33 years.

The highly regarded father-of-three used to deliver the President’s Daily Brief to George W. Bush. He said he was "probably the only person on the planet" at the side of U.S. presidents during both the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and "when we brought Osama bin Laden to justice."

For some, the appointment of Ms. Haines has come as something of a surprise.

One former U.S. official who worked with Mr. Brennan and Ms. Haines told the Washington Post: "It’s an interesting and unusual pick. Avril is extremely talented but obviously doesn’t come out of the intelligence community. The ability of outsiders to work in the community is always an open question."