President-elect Joe Biden‘s nominee for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said, if confirmed, she would focus on providing intelligence to support efforts to “out-compete China,” while committing to doing more training to educate Americans on the country’s malign foreign influence.
During her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haines said she would “set a strategic vision” for the intelligence community to ensure the U.S. is “well postured to address developing threats and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.”
Haines, if confirmed, would be the first woman to lead the intelligence community. Under the Obama Administration, Haines served as a principal deputy national security adviser and as a deputy director at the CIA — she was the first woman to hold both positions.
Haines said under her leadership, she would ensure that the intelligence community “has the capacity to understand, warn, protect and defend the United States against the threats we face,” and pointed to a number of threats — ranging from “traditional state actors” to “evolving” transnational threats like “climate change, cyber attacks, terrorism, global organized crime and corruption, disinformation campaigns and more.”
“We should provide the necessary intelligence to support long-term bipartisan efforts to out-compete China — gaining and sharing insight into China’s intensions and capabilities, while also supporting more immediate efforts to counter Beijing’s unfair, illegal, aggressive and coercive actions, as well as its human rights violations, wherever we can,” Haines testified.
Haines was questioned on malign foreign influence campaigns China has directed against the U.S. — with acting committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., questioning how the incoming administration will handle China’s efforts to target American “policymakers and influencers” to “promote China’s interests around the world.”
Haines committed to “do more training in this space,” and emphasized the importance of “partnerships” and developing a “plan for how we can increase trainings for leaders in state and local government.”
During an exclusive interview with Fox News, the current director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director Bill Evanina said no country poses a “broader, more severe threat” to America than China, while saying that their malign foreign influence campaign against the U.S. would be one of the “bigger challenges” for the incoming Biden administration.
“China continues to engage in a highly sophisticated malign foreign influence campaign against America because we are a democracy, and democracy is bad for China,” Evanina explained, noting that the country’s methods include “bribery, blackmail, covert dealings with businesses, and an effort to influence American policies and attitudes so that they align with China’s interests globally.”
“This is not only just a government problem,” Evanina warned. “This is a society problem.”
“We have to educate America so they know what malign influence tastes like, smells like, looks like, so when they see it, they can call it out,” he explained. “This will take a whole of society approach, invoking the government, the intelligence community, law enforcement, social media, big tech companies, to be able to say what this is.”
Evanina told Fox News that the U.S. has “an advantage” with the incoming Biden administration, saying they have “started early,” receiving their presidential daily briefings, and receiving and analyzing intelligence streams.
“When the Biden administration steps in on Day One, they will have an optic of how pernicious and sophisticated the threat — not only from the Chinese Communist Party, but from Russia, Iran, and others,” he said. “And they will have a head start in trying to find the correct avenues to pivot and understand the threat, and find creative ways to mitigate the threat.”
“I think the challenge for the Biden administration will be to understand the scope and scale of some of the Chinese threats in the American landscape, domestically, and what is the best course to defeat that,” Evanina continued. “I have confidence they’ll be able to do that when they get in here, because there are scores of professional intelligence officers and law enforcement folks that are working around the world that will help them to find solutions.”
Part of China’s malign foreign influence has focused on politicians and elected officials, with Evanina telling Fox News they have become “actively engaged” in identifying elected officials at the state, local, and federal level, honing in on those that are both anti-China and pro-China.
“The ones who are pro-China or pro-trade, they will facilitate and enhance their candidacies for a long time,” Evanina said. “That’s basic lobbying by a foreign government, which is standard.”
Last month, a report surfaced revealing that a suspected spy for China got close to a number of politicians, including Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and that the FBI stepped in to disrupt the situation — even giving a “defensive briefing” to the Democratic congressman.
Evanina did not comment on that report, or on Swalwell, but said this is “nothing new.”
“When it gets to vicious aspects, with respects to cornering officials and putting them in a position where they have to make hard economic choices locally, it makes it really tough for them,” Evanina explained. “I think anything that the Chinese Communist Party does with respect to elected officials is nothing new — it is just widespread all across the ecosystem of America.”
Meanwhile, during the hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked that Haines commit to hiring a “pipeline of Mandarin speakers” and to shift the intelligence community’s focus toward Asia and away from counterterrorism.
“Counterterrorism simply is not as great a threat as our long-term China issues are,” Sasse told Haines.
Haines, if confirmed, committed to reconvene with the committee to discuss further the “right metrics” to address his point.