President-elect Joe Biden is strongly considering Mike Morell, the former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency to lead the CIA, according to four individuals who are familiar with the matter. But those familiar with the process say other candidates are still in the nation’s top spy boss position.
Morell served as the CIA’s deputy director under President Barack Obama for three years, and twice as the agency’s acting director. Three of the four sources familiar with the case said the elected president considered both Morell and Avril Hains, another former deputy director of the CIA, for the post. However, in a statement on Monday afternoon, Biden selected Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA and, under Obama, a deputy national security adviser as director of national intelligence.
Two of the sources mentioned above said Biden was also considering Tom Donilon for the post. Donilon was Obama’s national security advisor and has deep roots in Bidenworld. His brother, Mike Donilon, has already been elected White House chief adviser to the president-elect.
Another name for the mix is Jeh Johnson, a former director of the Department of Homeland Security. But others have told The Daily Beast that Johnson is considering the role of attorney general. As one source said about current staffing considerations, “Too many people, too few chairs.”
Biden’s presidential change team declined to comment.
Of those on Biden’s CIA list, Morell may have the most direct experience, but potentially the hardest to confirm.
This is because your election could risk the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party. A CIA career analyst who played a significant role in Osama bin Laden’s hunt – and was George W. Bush’s intelligence officer on 9/11 – Morell aggressively defended the agency’s torture and drone strikes.
“As a CIA director, a torture apologist cannot be confirmed,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast about Morell. – This is not a beginner.
If Morell were to be placed on top of the CIA, it is likely that much of the National Security Institute would be housed, which sees its expertise as a tool and believes it would take a smooth lead in the agency. Sue Gordon, who was deputy director general of national intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said she “knows Morell best” of the people mentioned for this post.
“It would bring a lot of strengths: fast, analytical thinking; leadership at all levels of the Agency; and a broader perspective based on your time in the private sector,” Gordon added. “I know he is committed to the people, to the transfer of craftsmanship and intelligence that the Nation needs.”
But a Morell nomination would probably also raise immediate questions about whether Biden is planning more continuity than leaving in the nearly 20-year war on terror, despite the fact that in the wake of the campaign, he said he agreed to end the endless wars.
In a 2015 interview with Vice News, Morell said dealing with terrorists is “the only way” to keep up the pressure on them. When you take the pressure off, they start planning and are successful in planning.
Reuters was the first to report that Morell and Haines had nominated themselves as lead contenders to take over the Biden government’s leading spy positions. A Morell representative declined to comment.
A former Republican national security official who knows Morell has indicated that he wants to take on this role, and Concerns about your past should not be an obstacle.
“He’s not an arrogant guy at all, if you know him,” the source said. – He’s obviously very professional. The guy who does the job.
During President Donald Trump’s tenure, Morell was a commentator on CBS and hosted a popular podcast in national security circles, The issue of intelligence, which in the Trump era called into question Democrat-oriented intelligence personalities. Among the guests was Tony Blinken, played by Biden appointed Secretary of State on Monday and Jake Sullivan, Biden announced national security consultant.
While one former Republican secret service official called Morell “a straightforward shooter with integrity”, some Democrats are likely to question his legacy.
In his 2015 memoir The great war of our time, Morell called the drone strike “the most effective [counterterrorism] instrument over the last five years ’and rejected reports of significant civilian casualties as‘ highly exaggerated ’. In contrast, in 2016, survivors of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen described that the strikes killed and spoiled their friends, young relatives and grandparents.
One in 2016 New York Times With the approval of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the stirring up of Trump, Morell, the head of the CIA counterterrorism center who led the drone strikes at the time, was approved as the only man “most responsible for keeping America safe since the 9/11 attacks. “This individual, Michael D’Andrea, allegedly led the CIA’s operations in Iran under Trump’s direction. (Morell did not identify D’Andrea, whose identity is an official secret.)
“Too many people, too few chairs.“
– A source that knows Biden’s staff decisions
Morell took the lead in exploiting the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 report on torture on the CIA. He rejected this characterization despite the CIA causing mocking suffocation, lack of sleep, a strictly restricted diet, and painful physical distortions in at least 39 of at least 119 people. From 2002 to 2008, he was held in unknown prisons. Some have experienced sexual harassment under the guise of “rectal rehydration” or “rectal feeding”. One was executed. Another, Gul Rahman, froze to death in a CIA prison.
“I don’t like to call it torture for one simple reason: to say torture is that my guys were torturers,” Morell told the Vice in 2015. “I will protect my guys to the last breath.”
Morell clashed with Senator Dianne Feinstein (California), a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who led the chamber’s torture investigation. In 2015, his office issued a 54-page rebuttal of Morell’s account of the torture program. The Feinstein representative did not submit a comment.
In a 2015 interview with Vice News, Morrell seemed to defend not only the effectiveness of torture – which, according to the encrypted version of the Senate report, is not only nothing but obscured by the agency lies building – but also its morality.
“There’s another side to the moral coin,” Morell said. – What is morality no use these techniques on an inmate if you really think you should do this in order to save American life? And so the question of morality becomes very difficult. “
Both Morell and Haines supported their former CIA colleague Gina Haspel, the central figure in CIA torture, whom Trump appointed CIA director in 2018. For Daniel J. Jones, who was the Senate’s chief torture investigator, the intelligence community in Haines and Morell would be the latest consequence of Obama’s decision not to “look back and forth” on accountability for CIA torture.
“Of the contestants announced by the CIA director, Mike Morell would be the most disappointing candidate,” Jones told The Daily Beast.
“As deputy director, Morell has shown his inability to hold CIA officers accountable for the most obvious violations of the law. Morell continues to deny the torture of the CIA – despite CIA interrogation methods including water talk, rectal feeding,
and other abusive treatment that led to the injury and death of at least one inmate, ”Jones said. “And his disrespect for illegal surveillance should be disqualified. How can a person with Morell’s history be a candidate when we know how much Biden values oversight and accountability?