Obama taps Treasury terror, intelligence chief for CIA

David Cohen, then US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House on October 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama appointed the US Treasury's anti-terrorism and financial intelligence chief David Cohen to the number-two position in the Central Intelligence Agency, the spy agency said Friday.

Cohen, 51, has served as the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence since June 2011, fighting terrorism, weapons and drug trafficking, money laundering and other financial crimes.

"I look forward to his insights, expertise, and energy as we address the growing number and diversity of national security challenges facing America today," CIA Director John Brennan said.

The US Treasury Department is rare among financial agencies in having its own intelligence operation.

Under Cohen, this has sought to snuff out the sources of financing for the Islamic State group and target sanctions against Iran and Russia.

He will become CIA deputy director in February, replacing Avril Haines who is departing CIA to be Obama's deputy national security adviser.

A lawyer by training, Cohen first joined the Treasury in 1999. He helped craft the legislation that formed the USA Patriot Act, passed after the 9/11 2001 terror attacks to battle terrorism and terrorism financing.

He returned to the Treasury in 2009 after practicing law in private practice for seven years.