Biden leans toward Tom Donilon as CIA leader

Another name for the CIA is Jeh Johnson, the former Secretary of Homeland Security of the Obama era. Johnson, a former federal prosecutor, was the Pentagon’s chief adviser in Obama’s first term – he tried but failed to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. However, it is not clear how serious his position is in the CIA hunt, and he is mentioned in other positions, including Secretary of Defense and Attorney General. Johnson is on the board of Lockheed Martin, which dislikes advanced people who want Biden to cut defense spending.

Johnson declined in an email to comment on whether he had discussed any of his positions with the Biden team. A spokesman for Biden’s transition team was also unwilling to comment on this story, as was Donilon.

Earlier this week, Biden unveiled his choices in several areas of national security, including Avril Haines as a candidate for director of national intelligence. The CIA continues to be a heavyweight among the country’s 17 spy agencies, and its employees often frustrate DNI’s somewhat amorphous oversight role. But Haines is widely respected in the national security community and his views are being considered as two people close to the process say Biden is considering options for a CIA leader. One man said Haines is likely to prefer Morell, who has not been his boss in the past, as opposed to Donilon, for whom Haines worked for National Security Council staff.

Morell’s remarks about the previous use of CIA “enhanced interrogation” procedures on the left were interpreted by many in defense of the morality of torture. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Biden not to nominate Morell to the CIA.

“As a director of the CIA, a torture apologist cannot be confirmed. It’s not a start, ”Wyden told The Daily Beast, who also reported that Donilon and Johnson are being considered to varying degrees. It is not clear that the two leaders of the committee, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) And Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), Who would play a key role in any ratification process, tend to.

If he elects Biden Morell, he will cross a “red line” for progressives in his party, many of whom have supported him and cabinet decisions so far, despite feeling too centrist, a Capitol Hill aide, a progressive legislator, told POLITICO .

“One of the basic things we can expect is that he won’t appoint torture defenders to senior positions or any position,” the assistant said.

Nick Shapiro, a former CIA deputy chief of staff who is currently a spokesman for Morell, said in a statement that “Morell was in no way involved in setting up the EIT program and only found out in 2006, four years after its inception,” the CIA “ Enhanced Interrogation Techniques ”. “He publicly stated in a 2013 60-minute interview and wrote in his 2015 book that he thought water sports were indeed torture. Morell believes there were many mistakes in the EIT program and he wrote a lot about them. ”

However, Shapiro’s statement highlighted key disagreements between the agency’s multitude and critics of the torture program, particularly Senate investigators, who were tasked with examining whether the tactics were lawful and justified. In his book The Great War of Our Time, Morell wrote that although he was bothered by water gliding, he also thought that “this is one of the two most effective techniques (the other is lack of sleep)”. The Senate’s comprehensive report on the torture program found that “enhanced” interrogation tactics, including water polo, were not effective in triggering intelligence either.

One factor that benefits Morell is that he is already well known within the agency, serving twice as deputy director and acting director, and before that as an analyst and senior assistant to former CIA director George Tenet. He was George W. Bush’s brief opinion on September 11 – and was later honored with the CIA’s second highest honor, the Honorary Intelligence Award, for his role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Donilon has held various roles in the administrations of Carter, Clinton and Obama and has known Biden for many years. He has a legal, business, and political background, and was a key architect and coordinator on policies such as the “Asia Scenario” when Obama chaired the National Security Council in his first term, although he often worked behind the scenes.

His brother, Mike, is a well-established political strategist and close assistant to Biden, who helped shape his 2020 campaign message. Biden recently announced that Mike Donilon will serve as a senior counselor at the White House.

But progressives don’t feel like Tom Donilon either. This is partly due to his current role as President of the BlackRock Investment Institute. BlackRock has been a major investor in fossil fuels, among other things, and Donilon’s role there is progressively concerned about corporate influence, particularly in the field of environmental protection. However, it is not clear how this putative effect will manifest itself in Langley.

Some who worked under Donilon say they could be a hard-working boss who regularly demands excessive, often unnecessary work from people working in already challenging jobs. Critics had no doubts about Donilon’s motivations or patriotism, saying they expected to get some sort of role in a Biden government. Some say Donilon embodied, in a sense, one of Obama’s central complaints against the NSC – that it’s too micro-management.

“A meticulous preparer,” “with strict regulations that can be tough on staff,” said one Obama administration official who worked with Donilion.

The former official also expressed concern about Donilon’s confidence in the spotlight. While Donilon has all the intellectual abilities needed for a leadership position, he feels uncomfortable in public life, the former official said, recalling desperate requests for “facts, figures, resources” before key speeches.

– If you gave a speech [he wanted] more, more discussions to review the text to make changes – group discussions that relied only on resources, ”he said.

Others disagreed with Donilon’s critical appraisal, which ultimately led many layers of the organization.

Samantha Vinograd, who acted as Donama’s senior adviser as Obama’s national security adviser, said, “no one cared more about his staff than Tom Donilon,” and as boss, “he didn’t get much better than Tom. “

Donilon received a vote of confidence from Tom Nides, a former deputy secretary of state who is currently vice president of finance at Morgan Stanley.

“I’m sure you can do exhausting work for guys like Tom, but you want people in these jobs who work as hard as they do,” said Nides, who has known Donilon for 35 years. “I don’t think anyone would suggest that Tom doesn’t demand as much from himself as from anyone who works for him.”