The Daily Beast
Mark MakelaPresident-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to run the 18 U.S. intelligence agencies anticipates producing a public assessment of the threat from QAnon, she testified at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.Avril Haines, whom Biden tapped as the next director of national intelligence, told Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) that she would provide him with such an assessment, which Heinrich requested last month in a letter.“I’ve seen that letter and absolutely, if confirmed, I would work with the FBI and DHS to get an answer to that question,” said Haines.In one of the indications of how the Jan. 6 insurrection is shaping the context of Biden’s impending presidency, Haines seemed to reject putting the intelligence agencies in the lead on “an issue such as solely domestic terrorism.” She instead told the Senate intelligence committee that she wanted to provide “critical support” to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, which will play that leading role. But she did not specify what such support would precisely be.Instead, Haines indicated she views the intelligence agency’s work with regard to far-right terror – Haines used the phrase “white nationalism” – as a matter of identifying connections to foreign actors and disinformation. The coalescence of globalizing white nationalist and far-right violence is increasingly a focus of the incoming Biden team. Russ Travers, a former National Counterterrorism Center recently tapped as Biden’s deputy homeland-security adviser at the White House, has written that the U.S. is increasingly an exporter of such violence and drew connections to the 2019 mosque murders in Christchurch, New Zealand.But an intelligence focus on QAnon will inevitably stoke controversy. Even after the FBI warned in 2019 that QAnon posed a domestic-terror threat, at least two QAnon boosters, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) have been elected to Congress. Efforts a decade ago to study far-right-terror resulted in the Obama administration ending a DHS analytic entity that did so following a conservative outcry.Notably, Haines did not during testimony request any additional authorities for the intelligence agencies with regard to right-wing extremism, an effort that has some support from liberals.While Haines testified, Biden’s nominee to run the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, told a different Senate panel that he intends to use the secretary’s current powers against white supremacist terrorism. Mayorkas said he will look toward “empowering” DHS’ intelligence branch “in an apolitical nonpartisan way” to “tackle the threat that domestic extremism is today.”FBI Gave D.C. Bureau’s Domestic Terrorism Response ‘Failing Grade’ Years Before Capitol Riot: ReportMayorkas noted that as a federal prosecutor in California he created “for the first time in the office’s history a civil rights section to focus on the prosecution of hate crimes which was a growing problem back in the late 90s.”Haines, a former deputy CIA director during the Obama administration, will run the intelligence community for Biden, which is not always a set task, given the influence of the CIA. In 2017, the Senate panel heard confirmation testimony from President Trump’s first CIA director, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, more than a month before his first director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. Coats, a former Republican senator on the committee, showed up at Haines’ hearing to advocate for her confirmation.Haines emphasized that one of her priorities as director will be on restoring trust in the intelligence agencies from the American people – a tall order considering the depth of persistent distrust, one reflected in the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that Trump is at war with a “Deep State” of security officials whom he had secretly indicted and intended to send to the still-open detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.“The director of national intelligence must uphold our democratic values and ensure the work of the intelligence community, which is mostly done in secret, is ethical, wise, lawful and effective,” she said.Since its launch in Oct. 2017 with a series of anonymous internet posts, QAnon has been tied to a number of crimes, including three murders and a terrorist incident near the Hoover Dam. Prosecutors have charged several QAnon believers in connection with the Capitol riot, including the “Q Shaman,” a man dressed in horns and furs who allegedly left a threatening note in the Senate for Vice President Mike Pence.-- Sam Brodey and Jackie Kucinich provided reportingRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.