President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of William Burns to be director of the CIA is an inspired choice.
Burns is the most senior and most respected diplomat in the US today. He is currently president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, one of the think tanks to which experts go when they are out of government. It’s also the sponsor of the Carnegie Conference on Nuclear Policy, which I’ve attended for the past decade or so, also known as #nukefest. It’s THE gathering for experts on international nuclear issues. The next one will be virtual, in June.
Burns has been ambassador to Jordan and to Russia and has held a number of high posts in the State Department. He and Jake Sullivan (who is to be Biden’s National Security Advisor) laid the groundwork for the JCPOA agreement with Iran.
Why CIA? Many people expected Biden to name him as Secretary of State, but Antony Blinken will serve there. The head of the CIA is usually chosen from within the organization.
Gina Haspel is currently the director of the CIA. She is one of the few Trump appointees who actually has a background in and commitment to her agency. But she also was chief of a black site in Thailand during the Bush 43 administration. It’s time to repudiate the role of torture in intelligence gathering.
Diplomats are not strangers to the world of intelligence. Every embassy abroad includes CIA employees along with those from the State Department, the Russian embassy more than most. The State Department uses intelligence generated by the CIA, its internal agency, and other government intelligence agencies.
We can read a number of messages into Burns’s nomination:
- Competence is back (This is a general message across Biden’s nominations)
- No more torture
- Tilt toward State Department as maker and executor of foreign policy
- Russia, we’ve got your number
- Allies, you can begin to trust our intelligence services again.
Photo: The Guardian
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner