Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines is famous for being low-key. So much so that an account impersonating the intelligence community manager appears to have duped even some in the White House communications team into following it, along with several blue-check national political reporters.
The account surfaced with no fanfare in mid-June bearing Haines photo, name, and job description but no verification checkmark.
In an email to The Daily Beast, an ODNI spokesperson confirmed that the account doesn’t belong to Haines. “You are correct, the account is fake.”
A spokesperson for the National Security Council did not provide comment before publication, but did note that in a coincidence of timing, the account had just followed them on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
@WRLD46 first presented itself in the branding of the Biden administration—blueprint banner drawing of the White House north portico, pushed bland retweets about the daily activities of the Biden administration from verified official accounts, and caught the eye of verified administration and journalism accounts by sprinkling likes and follows.
The account appeared to have fooled even the White House’s communications team. Among its first followers—which are otherwise often a tipoff as to who knows an account owner best—were Khanya Brann (special assistant to the communications director), Rachel Palermo (assistant press secretary to the vice president), former junior deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo, Amanda Finney (chief of staff to the White House press office).
It’s unclear who was behind the account but the first accounts to mention it all appear to be associated with a 17-year-old self-styled India-based “business tycoon, investor, engineer, and philanthropist,” according to a dubiously fattened bio. The account, which The Daily Beast is not naming because it involves a minor, billed itself as a “Brand Ambassador @WhiteHouse.”
After The Daily Beast reached out to Twitter, the social media company suspended the fake Haines account for violating its impersonation policy.
Haines, the first woman to lead the ODNI, cuts a different profile than many of the previous occupants of the office. On the surface, her career followed a traditional path from law school to the Senate, State Department, and the CIA. But few of those who’ve moved up the ladder of the intelligence community have studied judo in Japan, worked as a car mechanic, or picked up a degree in physics along the way.
Haines, for her part, reputedly prefers to stay out of the spotlight, seeing her ability to avoid public attention as an asset for the head of America’s intelligence community. Haines once had an entire conversation with an intelligence officer at the Liberty Crossing Intelligence Campus in McLean, Virginia, before the officer asked her what role she played, according to a source familiar with the exchange.
When Haines responded that she was the director of national intelligence, she reportedly assuaged the officer’s obvious embarrassment by noting that in her line of work, the ability to avoid notice can be a useful skill.