Why Biden tapped William Burns for CIA

WASHINGTON DC (A-xios): President-elect Bid-en’s selection of William B-urns, a retired top diplomat, as his nominee for CIA director marks a potential pivot point for the agency.
Why it matters: Burns’ background is in statecraft, not subterfuge. His appointment may offer an unusual opportunity to better integrate the CIA’s intelligence-gathering, analysis and covert action capabilities with larger U.S. foreign policy aims.
What they’re saying: The pick “means [Biden] intends for American intelligence to serve American diplomacy in a way unseen since the Dulles brothers led those forces in the 1950s. That’s an urgent and monumental mission,” writes Tim Weiner.
Catch up quick: Burns, who currently heads the Carnegie Endowment, was something of a surprise pick.
Insiders had believed front-runners for the job included former CIA deputy director David Cohen and former senior CIA official Darrell Blocker.
Another well-known CIA hand, former acting director Michael Morell, earlier asked to be removed from consideration for the job after some Senate Democrats signaled their opposition to him over his past statements on torture.
Background: Burns, who retired in 2014 as deputy secretary of state, is a widely respected 33-year veteran of America’s diplomatic corps.
He was deeply involved in the Obama administration’s Iran strategy, including leading backchannel negotiations surrounding the Iran Deal.
He was also previously the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
Of note: Although some former CIA heads, like Richard Helms and George H.W. Bush, were later appointed to diplomatic posts, Burns would be the first career diplomat to ascend to the top CIA post.
Yes, but: Burns’ diplomatic background doesn’t necessarily mean he will eschew the harder-edged aspects of spy work. After all, under the Obama administration, the CIA undertook a concerted covert action campaign to degrade Iran’s nuclear program while also pushing for a negotiated suspension of Tehran’s activities.