Biden taps career diplomat William Burns as CIA chief

Clay Curtis
January 13, 2021

Burns rose through the ranks of the diplomatic corps and served as ambassador to Jordan under former U.S President Bill Clinton and ambassador to Russian Federation under former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Burns, now the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, previously had a 33-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service.

"In a statement, Mr Biden said: "[Mr Burns] shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect". The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was finalized less than a year after his retirement.

Mr Biden's priorities in national security and foreign policy include plans to revive the Iran nuclear deal after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from it in 2018.

Burns has received three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and the highest civilian honours from the Pentagon and the United States intelligence community.

"I've never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging, to both the State Department as an institution and our global influence, as the one now underway", he wrote.

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"The fact that we did it quietly or secretly caused a certain amount of controversy", he said in a 2016 interview.

Called an "exemplary diplomat" by US President-elect Joe Biden, William Burns has a 33-year career at State Department under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

"Amb. Burns is an inspired choice", tweeted Douglas London, a former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer.

But support for Haspel, from the intelligence community as well as the White House, appeared to wane over time. Trump expressed skepticism about intelligence and frequently disparaged the assessments of US spy agencies, especially about Russia's interference in the 2016 election to help his campaign.

This left Haspel and other national security officials in a hard, if not impossible position. "I served with them in hard places around the world".

Amid tumult in the State Department after Trump took office in 2017, Burns held his tongue until past year when he began writing highly critical pieces of the Trump administration's policies in Foreign Affairs and other publications. Several were in the No. 2 positions at their agencies during that period and are now being elevated to leadership roles after being out of government during Trump's tenure. Biden tapped Avril Haines, another familiar face who served as the CIA's deputy director under Obama from 2013-2015, as his director of national intelligence. Biden chose Anthony Blinken instead. But the CIA also cooperates regularly with State, and Burns worked closely with agency operators as ambassador to Russian Federation and Jordan.

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