Obama picks sanctions enforcer for No. 2 at CIA

Treasury Department official David Cohen will be the new deputy director of the CIA, President Obama announced on Friday.

Obama appointed David Cohen to be the spy agency’s second in command, after having overseen sanctions regimes on Russia and Iran.

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As the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence since 2011, Cohen has been the architect of the Obama administration’s sanctions against global terrorists, weapons traffickers and other illicit organizations. He has also been key in the Obama administration’s efforts to put pressure on Russia and Iran.

The pick is somewhat of a surprise, given that Cohen had not previously served at the CIA.

Still, he “brings a wealth of experience on many of the issues that we focus on,” agency Director John Brennan said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post, which first reported news of the pick.

He replaces Avril Haines, the CIA's first ever female deputy director, who returned to the White House to be President Obama’s deputy national security advisory in December. 

Before his current role, Cohen spent two years as assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Treasury Department, and spent seven years at Washington law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

He had a previous stint in the Treasury Department’s general counsel’s office starting in 1999, and helped craft part of the legislation that became the Patriot Act. 

— This story was last updated at 1:55 p.m.