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Why Obama chose woman with no CIA experience for No. 2 CIA job

Avril Haines will be the first woman to be second in command at the CIA, but critics point not to her gender but her lack of CIA experience. Her choice suggests Obama wants a close ally.

By Correspondent / June 13, 2013

Michael Morell, seen on Capitol Hill in this file photo, is resigning as deputy director of the CIA and will be replaced by Avril Haines on Aug. 9.

Evan Vucci/AP/File



Plucking from a collection of high-powered female lawyers serving the White House, President Obama has nominated Avril Haines as the next deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Ms. Haines is the first woman to hold the job. She replaces Michael Morell, who announced his retirement after more than three decades in the CIA to spend time with family. She’s an unexpected pick in that she hasn’t any background with the agency. In fact, Haines was slated just a couple months ago to move to the State Department as its legal adviser.

How unusual is it for a lawyer – and one without spook experience – to fill such a powerful agency job?

One former senior CIA official tells the Monitor that her nomination has prompted surprise among his former colleagues, not due to Haines’s gender, of course, but because she is a relative unknown in the community. He says the law is “not a typical track” for the deputy director job and that she’ll likely “face some skepticism among the ranks until she can prove that she has learned the intricacies of the organization and doesn’t automatically default to an overly legalistic, risk averse, view of everything.”

“She has the disadvantage of following Michael Morell who is much admired across the board,” the official adds. “Thirty-three years of experience being replaced by none. She faces quite an uphill climb.”

CIA Director John Brennan provided his full support for Haines, however, suggesting “she knows more about covert action than anyone in the US government outside of the CIA.”

"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 added, in a statement reported by UPI.


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