2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Under Secretary of State William Burns attends a meeting with Egypt’s Acting President Adli Mansour at the El-Thadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo 2/2
By Patricia Zengerle and Mark Hosenball WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden‘s candidate for CIA director William Burns is expected to conclude his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, with a debate focused primarily on challenges. China and Russia and threats. of international piracy networks. Burns, 64, a former career diplomat who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, has already been confirmed by the Senate five times for his terms as ambassador to Jordan and Russia and three high-level positions in the State Department. In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burns was expected to describe his top four priorities: “people, partnerships, China and technology,” if he is confirmed to lead the agency, according to a US official familiar with the matter. Competition with China is a top priority for the Biden administration and members of Congress, who want a hard line on Beijing. Russian aggression is a constant concern, especially its turnout in the US elections and the recent attack on SolarWinds that penetrated government agencies and which US officials have blamed on Russian hackers. Burns will also note that he often worked with the Central Intelligence Agency during his years as a diplomat. “He understands the mission and knows the people. It means that politics will stop where intelligence work begins,” the official said. Part of that experience came in an area that could draw criticism from Republicans. Burns and Jake Sullivan, who is now Biden’s national security adviser, led secret talks with Iran in 2013 that helped pave the way for the international nuclear deal that has been criticized by Republicans. The Biden administration last week offered to sit down with the Iranians and other parties to the 2015 pact to see if there is a way back to the deal, after Trump withdrew in 2018. Burns’ arrival at the CIA would come after four difficult. years under former President Donald Trump, a Republican who frequently ignored the findings of spy agencies, especially the determination that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to increase its chances of winning the White House. Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s Democratic chair, will emphasize that point in his opening remarks. “I would like to hear how you plan to reinforce the belief that no matter what political pressure, no matter what, CIA officers will always do the right thing and speak truth to power,” Burns will be asked, based on his prepared remarks. . Biden has been able to put most of his national security team in their place with the support of many Senate Republicans and Democrats. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines easily obtained confirmation.