President Biden on Friday elevated William J. Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to become a member of his cabinet, citing the agency’s work in providing “good intelligence, delivered with honesty and integrity” on China, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and emerging technologies.
“Bill has always given me clear, straightforward analysis that prioritizes the safety and security of the American people, reflecting the integral role the C.I.A. plays in our national security decision-making at this critical time,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
Mr. Burns, a veteran diplomat with a career stretching back more than three decades, has been a key player in the administration’s efforts to thwart Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He traveled to Moscow before the invasion and has been to Kyiv several times since the war started to confer with the country’s leaders.
The position of C.I.A. director had been a cabinet-level one until 2005, when the post of director of national intelligence was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Starting that year, the director of national intelligence, not of the C.I.A., served in the cabinet.
Former President Donald J. Trump changed that in 2017, putting both intelligence directors in his cabinet. But Mr. Biden changed it back again when he took office in 2021. With his decision on Friday, both positions are once again in the cabinet.
The new status — which is largely symbolic and is not expected to add any new responsibilities for Mr. Burns — is a credibility boost for the agency after coming under intense criticism for intelligence failures before the terror attacks two decades ago.
In his statement, Mr. Biden praised the agency’s work and said Mr. Burns, along with Avril D. Haines, the current director of national intelligence, has provided information that gives the country “a critical strategic advantage” in its foreign policy.
“Under his leadership, the C.I.A. is delivering a cleareyed, long-term approach to our nation’s top national security challenges,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Burns started in the Foreign Service in the early 1980s and has been a player in American foreign policy since then, serving presidents in both parties.
Former President George W. Bush made him ambassador to Russia in 2005 and he served in top positions at the State Department for former President Barack Obama.
In 2013, Mr. Burns was a key Obama administration official leading secret negotiations with Iran to reach an agreement that would limit Iran’s nuclear program. He later retired from government to become the president of the Carnegie Institute for International Peace.
In addition to playing a key role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Mr. Burns also traveled to Afghanistan to meet with Taliban leaders as the administration followed through on Mr. Biden’s promise to withdraw troops from the country and end America’s longest war.
Michael D. Shear is a veteran White House correspondent and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was a member of the team that won the Public Service Medal for Covid coverage in 2020. He is the co-author of “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” More about Michael D. Shear
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