President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday he has chosen veteran diplomat William Burns to be his CIA director. A former ambassador to Russia and Jordan, Burns, 64, had a 33-year career at the State Department under both Republican and Democratic presidents. He rose through the ranks of the diplomatic corps to become deputy secretary of state before retiring in 2014 to run the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. Amid tumult in the State Department after President Trump took office in 2017, Burns held his tongue until last year when he began writing highly critical pieces of the Trump administration's policies in Foreign Affairs and other publications, reports the AP. Burns has been a staunch advocate of rebuilding and restructuring the foreign service, positions Biden has aligned himself with.
In an opinion piece on the pick for the Washington Post, David Ignatius frames the choice: "What’s likely to have appealed to Biden ... is [Burns'] reputation as a nonpartisan figure who served in hard places—Russia and the Middle East—and over the years developed close relationships with the countries that are the CIA’s key liaison partners. His biggest challenge will be dealing with a quirky, cliquey CIA culture that is often resistant to change. CIA operatives have been masterful over the years at bending new directors to their priorities." And from Biden himself: "Bill Burns is an exemplary diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage keeping our people and our country safe and secure. The American people will sleep soundly with him as our next CIA director." If confirmed by the Senate, Burns would succeed Gina Haspel and would be the first career diplomat to take the helm at the agency, reports Axios.
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