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Biden Nominates Veteran Diplomat William Burns to Lead CIA

Former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns attends a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, July 15, 2013. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced his plans to nominate former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to serve as director of the CIA.

Burns has held a multitude of national security roles under five Democratic and Republican administrations, Biden’s transition team noted. He served in the U.S. Foreign Service for 33 years before retiring in 2014.

Burns, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia between 2005 and 2008 and U.S. ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001 is a “consummate professional full of integrity who will bring the facts and independence that our national security demands,” team Biden said.

“Bill Burns is an exemplary diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage keeping our people and our country safe and secure,” Biden said in a statement.

“He shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect. Ambassador Burns will bring the knowledge, judgment, and perspective we need to prevent and confront threats before they can reach our shores,” Biden added. “The American people will sleep soundly with him as our next CIA Director.”

He would become the CIA’s first leader whose lifelong experience comes from the State Department, if confirmed. 

Burns, who is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an international affairs think tank in Washington, has been a longtime critic of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. He wrote an essay for the Atlantic last August that has recirculated in recent days warning of the dangers posed by the potential for President Trump to not accept election defeat.

“If he loses, I doubt that he will suddenly embrace the traditional bipartisan commitment to effective transitions. At best, he’ll be consumed by efforts to rationalize his defeat and paint the election as rigged; at worst, he’ll seek to contest or undermine the result,” Burns wrote. “Like so many other features of the Trump era, the transition would bear little resemblance to any before, or any of the many I served through as a career diplomat. The costs of confusion, mixed signals, and bureaucratic turmoil could be very high.”

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