A top Treasury Department official seen as a key architect of the Obama administration’s use of sanctions against Iran and several terrorist organizations including the Islamic State has been tapped by the president to serve as deputy director of the CIA.
David S. Cohen, who has served as Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence since 2011, will assume the deputy position at the agency in February, CIA Director John O. Brennan said in a statement circulated Friday.
“David brings a wealth of experience on many of the issues that we focus on as an agency and I look forward to his insights, expertise and energy as we address the growing number and diversity of national security challenges facing America today,” Mr. Brennan said.
Mr. Cohen, 51, is regarded as a close Obama administration confidant of Mr. Brennan’s. He will replace Avril D. Haines, who has moved from the CIA to the White House to serve as Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Mrs. Haines had been the first woman elevated to the CIA’s deputy directorship.
Friday’s announcement comes as the agency faces an evolving landscape of threats, particularly in the counterterrorism realm, where the Islamic State movement and Syria and Iraq has shifted the overall global jihadi narrative during recent years.
Mr. Cohen has made headlines on repeated occasion with his public assessments of the Islamic State’s capabilities. In October, he told an audience that with the exception of a handful of state-sponsored militant groups, the Islamic State is likely the “best-funded terrorist organization” Washington has ever faced, raising $1 million a day from black-market oil sales, $20 million in ransoms over the past year and millions a month through extortion in Syria and Iraq.
The CIA statement on Friday said Mr. Cohen first joined the Treasury Department in 1999, working in the office of the general counsel, where he was involved in crafting legislation that formed the basis of the Title III of the USA Patriot Act, and the 2001 update to the Bank Secrecy Act.
Before his work at Treasury, Mr. Cohen practiced law for nine years in the private sector, the agency said, adding that he holds a law degree from Yale and undergraduate degree from Cornell.