What they are saying about William J. Burns, Biden’s nominee for CIA Director

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday picked Ambassador William J. Burns as his nominee for CIA Director.

In a statement, the Biden team said “whether it’s cyber attacks emanating from Moscow, the challenge China poses, or the threat we face from terrorists and other non-state actors, he has the experience and skill to marshal efforts across government and around the world to ensure the CIA is positioned to protect the American people.”

Reactions have trailed the nomination of Ambassador Burns who has received a broad chorus of praise from lawmakers and national security experts. 

Below is what some have said about him.

John Brennan, Former CIA Director: An enlightened selection. Bill Burns is one of the most principled & respected national security professionals of our time. He has deep substantive expertise & extensive experience working with the Intelligence Community. The CIA will be most fortunate to have him at the helm. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
David Petraeus, Former CIA Director: Former CIA Director David Petraeus told POLITICO in a statement that Burns was “a truly inspired choice” who would “bring vast international experience, global relationships, and impressive, steady leadership.” [Politico, 1/11/21]
Senator Ron Wyden, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Ambassador Burns is a strong choice to protect our country as the next director of the CIA. After his distinguished career on the front lines of foreign policy and national security, Ambassador Burns has first-hand knowledge of the threats facing the United States, and the judgment to recognize we can protect our people without compromising the values that make America special. I’m looking forward to speaking with Ambassador Burns and learning more about his vision for the CIA. [Statement, 1/11/21]
Senator Chris Murphy, Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Bill Burns is an inspired choice. Experienced, level headed, and brilliant, he knows the ways in which the CIA, properly used, can protect the nation, but also the ways in which improperly used, covert action can add fuel to security threats. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Representative Adam Schiff, Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: The nomination of Ambassador Bill Burns as Director of the CIA is another superb choice by President-Elect Joe Biden. As a senior diplomat, Ambassador Burns has worked closely with the Intelligence Community for decades, and understands their mission and the needs of policymakers. From my experience working directly with Ambassador Burns, I have no doubt that he understands the IC’s core ethos of speaking truth to power, and I believe that our nation will be more secure and better prepared to confront the threats we face thanks to his service. [Statement, 1/11/21]
Representative Jim Himes, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: The nomination of Ambassador Bill Burns as Director of the CIA shows the incoming administration’s commitment to building a national security team with unparalleled experience and deeply-rooted ethics. Bill is a personal friend. There are few people for whom I have more respect or admiration. He faithfully served Republican and Democratic administrations, and I have no doubt that Bill will fulfill President-elect Biden’s mandate to speak truth to power and lead a fact-based and data-driven intelligence apparatus free of political worry or influence. [Statement, 1/11/21]
Representative Joaquin Castro, House Intel and Foreign Affairs Committees: As a @HouseIntel and @HouseForeign member, I commend the nomination of Ambassador Bill Burns to lead the @CIA. A brilliant career diplomat, Burns understands the threats we face, how intelligence informs diplomacy, and he will work tirelessly to protect the American people. [Tweet, 1/11/20]
Michael Morell, Former Deputy Director of the CIA: I’ve known ⁦Bill Burns for decades.  I’m thrilled for him and for the Agency.  He will be one the great @cia directors. His command of the issues, his deep respect for intelligence, and his care for people will ensure it. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
David Cohen, Former Deputy Director of the CIA: Congratulations to my friend Bill Burns on his nomination to be Director of the CIA.  Bill has the perfect mix of experience, expertise, and wisdom to lead the great women and men of CIA.  He will be a terrific Director. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Larry Pfeiffer, Former Chief of Staff to Former CIA Director Michael Hayden: “Ambassador Bill Burns will be welcomed by CIA’s rank and file as one of their own. He has worked closely with generations of CIA analysts and operators and has earned their respect.” [Foreign Policy, 1/11/21]
Nicholas Burns, Former Undersecretary of State: Bill Burns will be an outstanding CIA Director.  His long experience in some of the most challenging jobs in our government will serve the country well.  He is a person of wisdom, judgment and integrity.  Proud of my friend and colleague from the Foreign Service. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Judith Cefkin, Former Ambassador: Fantastic news! Bill Burns is one of the most brilliant, thoughtful & insightful career professionals I served under at State. The U.S. and CIA will be well-served by his leadership at Langley. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Dan Shapiro, Former Ambassador to Israel: What a wonderful choice! Bill Burns is smarter, savvier, and more decent than almost anyone I have ever known in government service. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
James Stavridis, Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander: Ambassador Bill Burns, an inspired choice for CIA.  Congrats, Bill … [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Admiral Mike Franken, Retired Three-Star General: Really great news…Amb Bill Burns is nom’d to the CIA. Superlative choice. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Michael Carpenter, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense: Bill Burns is a consummate professional and a great strategic mind. I’m biased because I worked as his speechwriter but this is a superb choice. The women and men of the CIA will have a leader who not only has vision but who also cares about them. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Sue Mi Terry, Senior Fellow at CSIS and Former CIA Analyst: Couldn’t have said it better. Bill Burns exemplifies decency and integrity. He has impeccable  judgment and vast knowledge. He will ensure that intelligence stays apolitical. The right choice to lead the CIA. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Liz Schrayer, US Global Leadership Coalition: Bill Burns is an outstanding pick for ⁦@CIA⁩ – though I will be said to lose him ⁦@USGLC⁩ Advisory Council 🙂 Smart, thoughtful, knowledgeable and highly respected across party lines. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Chris Painter, Former Top Cyber Diplomat: Bill Burns is an amazing diplomat & person.  And, on the cyber side, he was very supportive of my office at State in its early days and pushing some of these issues with China and others. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Richard Fontaine, CEO, Center for a New American Security: In Bill Burns, the CIA will have a wise, experienced and expert leader at the helm. Congratulations. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
David Priess, COO of Lawfare and Former CIA Officer: A solid choice. Bill Burns’ familiarity with high-level intelligence during his exemplary diplomatic career and his extensive management experience will serve him well leading the CIA. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Laura Rosenberger, Director, Alliance for Securing Democracy: I was over the moon when my former bosses @ABlinken & @jakejsullivan were named. Adding my former boss Bill Burns to this amazing team of national security pros who are not only brilliant & patriots but also incredibly kind & amazing leaders gives me so much hope for the country. [Tweet, 1/11/21

J Street: We’re thrilled to see Ambassador Burns tapped to lead the CIA. Burns is a longtime champion for diplomacy and a supporter of the Iran nuclear agreement. He’s a great choice for Biden’s top team. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Stephen Miles, Executive Director, Win Without War: “Whether it’s the elevation of @LindaT_G, @wendyrsherman, or now Ambassador Burns, the Biden Admin is putting seasoned, career diplomats back in charge of US foreign policy. There’s more work to be done to truly build a diplomacy first foreign policy, but this is a great start.” [Tweet, 1/11/21

Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: The wisdom, decency, and professionalism of Bill Burns is unmatched. He is invariably both the smartest person in the room and also the most humble. Kudos to @JoeBiden, the CIA staff will love working for him as much as all of us have at @CarnegieEndow. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Tommy Vietor, former NSC spokesperson: This is a fascinating choice for CIA. Bill is one of the most experienced diplomats in America at this moment. He has experience managing big departments. He thinks about diplomatic solutions to problems first. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Jenna Ben-Yehuda, President of the Truman National Security Project: Great to hear of Amb. Bill Burns’ nom to serve as @CIA Director. Simply put: he’s one of the best. I came to know Bill when I staffed him for UN Gen Assembly mtgs for @StateDept. I briefed him on Haiti, he asked about my family. He offers a rare combo of calm, smarts, and heart. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Foreign Policy for America: As a 33-year veteran of the State Dept foreign service, Amb. Bill Burns has been a powerful advocate of restoring diplomacy as America’s tool of first resort. He’s an outstanding choice to lead CIA. #HelpIsOnTheWay [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Mick Mulroy, former Trump Administration Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer: [Mulroy] said Burns boasts “in-depth knowledge of some of the most critical national security issues we face … His selection shows how important the incoming administration views the role of the CIA in the overall national security effort of the nation.” [Foreign Policy, 1/11/21]
Barbara Slavin, Director of the Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council: Bill Burns is one of our nation’s finest public servants and will bring stability and accountability to the CIA. [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Patrick Porter, University of Birmingham and Quincy Institute Fellow: Credit to @JoeBiden for appointing Bill Burns, a serious man and good citizen by all accounts. His book is pretty good too. Good news in a rough time.  [Tweet, 1/11/21]
Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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