Biden picks veteran diplomat William Burns as CIA director

President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that he had selected former professional diplomat William Burns to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

“The American people will sleep soundly with him as our next CIA director,” Biden said in a statement.

As a former ambassador to Russia and Jordan, Burns is the last major nomination for Biden, who will take office in nine days. Most recently, he was Assistant Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and held other diplomatic posts over a three-decade career in Republican and Democratic administrations.

“Bill Burns is a model diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage who keeps our people and our country safe,” said Biden. “He shares my deep conviction that intelligence agencies must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence workers who serve our nation deserve our gratitude and respect.”

If approved by the Senate, he would be the first professional diplomat to serve as a CIA director, according to the Biden team.

He would also succeed Gina Haspel, the first female CIA director to head the agency under President Donald Trump since May 2018. The president has often downgraded US spy agencies, especially regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.

Burns, who speaks Russian, Arabic and French, resigned from international service in 2014 after 33 years and was only the second professional diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary of State. He also served in various national security positions in five presidential administrations, according to the Biden team.

After retiring from overseas service, Burns became president of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank for international affairs.

Amid the turmoil at the State Department after Trump took office in 2017, Burns held his tongue until he began writing highly critical parts of the Trump administration’s foreign affairs policy and other publications last year, according to The Associated Press.

In an article On foreign affairs in October 2019, Burns said Trump had “a diplomacy of narcissism that seeks to advance private interests at the expense of our national interests.”

Burns studied at LaSalle University in Philadelphia and Oxford University in the UK.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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