Michael Morell is out as CIA Deputy Director, retiring after bungling the David Petraeus affair and the Benghazi debacle, but his replacement is a name you probably aren’t familiar with.
Avril Haines, 43, an accredited lawyer who has worked with President Obama on “sensitive” issues, is slated to take over the powerful position. A relative unknown, Haines becomes an incendiary hire for a number of reasons.
Here are five facts you need to know…
1. Haines Used to Host ‘Erotica Nights’ at her Erotic Book Store
The headline says it all, does it not?
Before pursuing her political ambition, Haines owned an establishment called Adrian’s Book Cafe. Named after her mother, Haines’s store was well-stocked with titles in every genre, but one section in particular got the most attention: Erotica.
It’s all outlined in a Baltimore Sun piece from 1995, where reporter Mary Corey investigated one of the hottest (and steamiest) nighttime attractions in Fells Point. Per the article:
A one-time event that proved popular enough to make a monthly gathering, these evenings are consciousness raisers for the libido. Strangers recite and discuss what polite company never would: trysts at the convenience store, husbands who don’t satisfy and the curves of a voluptuous woman.
To her credit, Haines – or at least the anonymous, 1995 version of her – didn’t shy away from her indulgence, saying in the piece that “Erotica has become more prevalent because people are trying to have sex without having sex. Others are trying to find new fantasies to make their monogamous relationships more satisfying.”
So really, if you see it the way your new CIA deputy director sees it, erotic readings fall somewhere at the intersection of ecstasy and charity. But what, exactly, did these loin-stirring self-help exercises look like?
“By 8 o’clock, the atmosphere in this cozy room with red candles resembles a slightly-awkward dinner party for eight,” says Corey, who attended a reading for her profile. “Everyone’s killing time, waiting for the sparks to begin.”
Sounds quaint and – surprisingly – not that weird. Attendees share the intimate details of past and present relationships like some sort of therapy group, the room sworn to tacit secrecy like a doctor with a patient.
But the details take a weirdly specific turn once Haines gets up to read. On this night she chooses an excerpt from “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty”:
In the topmost bed chamber of the house (the prince) found her. He had stepped over sleeping chambermaids and valets, and, breathing the dust and damp of the place, he finally stood in the door of her sanctuary. … And approaching her, he gave a soft gasp as he touched her cheek, and her teeth through her parted lips, and then her tender rounded eyelids.
At this point Corey notes that spectators are in a trance-like state, too enraptured by Haines’s words to eat, of all things, their chicken tostadas. Not until the prince performs his deed.
Haines’s erotic past is certainly…different…but I’m not sure if or how it effects her CIA qualifications. The Sun article was published 18 years ago, and even if it wasn’t, does it really make her less qualified for this powerful position. Is she supposed to be asexual?
Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress.com said it well:
In decades past, Haines might have been treated like a deviant, or as if she were oversexed, and even today, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the talking points around her appointment is that her interest in erotic fiction renders her frivolous or naughty. But like the millions of other Americans who read books like Fifty Shades of Grey, Haines is just a grown-up. And the sooner we can all acknowledge that reading sexy literature doesn’t render anyone blackmailable or unfit for serious work, the more adult our country will be, too.”
Let’s see how long it takes for this story to blow over.
2. The CIA is No Stranger to Book-Related Sex Scandals
No, we’re not saying Haines’s erotic book store will ever become a scandal. The smart money says it will blow over in time.
But we’d still be remiss not to mention David Petraeus, the CIA’s former Director, who famously resigned after engaging in an adulterous affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Comparing Petraeus and Haines, in this case, is like comparing apples with some planet in the Spiral Galaxy that just so happens to also start with the letter ‘A.’ But it is interesting to note the weird CIA correlation between literature and sex, no?
3. Haines is the First Female to Serve as CIA Deputy Director
Let’s move on to the good stuff. In replacing Michael Morell as CIA Deputy Director, Haines becomes the first woman to ever hold that position, breaking one more glass ceiling in a country (and government) that is rapidly running out of them.
Now the best thing she can do for like-minded women in her footsteps is also the best thing she can do for her country at large: a good job.
4. She Has Never Worked With the CIA
Unlike her predecessor, Morell, a tenured veteran of the CIA, Haines is a newcomer to the agency — a fact that, more so than the frivolous points in this piece (hopefully), will make her a divisive hire.
Her credentials include a law degree from Georgetown (Class of ’01, six years after the Sun article) and a ringing endorsement from current CIA Director John O. Brennan, who told the Washington Post that Haines “knows more about covert action than anyone in the U.S. government outside of the CIA.”
5. She Served as a Lawyer and Advisor to President Obama
Also on Haines’s resume is extensive experience with this administration; according to The Telegraph, Haines is a “White House lawyer who advised President Barack Obama on ‘sensitive intelligence operations.”
That rapport on ‘sensitive’ issues might explain why Obama was willing to appoint a relative unknown to such a powerful post.