William J. Burns 

William Joseph Burns (born April 4, 1956) is an American diplomat and career ambassador serving as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency since March 19, 2021.[2] He previously served as the United States deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2014. He retired from the US Foreign Service in 2014 after a 32-year diplomatic career. From 2014 to 2021, he served as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.[3][4]

Burns previously served as Ambassador of the United States to Jordan from 1998 to 2001, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs from 2001 to 2005, Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation from 2005 to 2008, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2008 to 2011.[5]

In January 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Burns to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.[6] He was unanimously confirmed by voice vote on March 18, 2021, sworn in officially as director on March 19, 2021,[2] and ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 23, 2021.[7][8]


Early life and education[edit source]

Burns was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1956.[9] He is the son of Peggy Cassady and William F. Burns, who was a United States Army Major General, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State; and served as Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1988–1989 in the Ronald Reagan administration and as the first U.S. special envoy to denuclearization negotiations with former Soviet countries under the legislation sponsored by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar.[10][11][12]

He earned a B.A. in history from La Salle University and M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in international relations from St John’s College, Oxford, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar. Burns was also a member of the Oxford University Men’s Basketball Team[13]

Career[edit source]

U.S. Foreign Service[edit source]

Burns entered the Foreign Service in 1982 and served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2011 to 2014. He had served as Under Secretary for Political Affairs from 2008 to 2011. He was US Ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 to 2005, and US Ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001. He had also been Executive Secretary of the State Department and Special Assistant to Secretaries Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Acting Director and Principal Deputy Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, and Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the US National Security Council.[3]

In 2008, Burns was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate as a Career Ambassador, the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service, equivalent to a four-star general officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. Promotions to the rank are rare.

A cable that Burns signed as ambassador to Russia in August 2006, released by WikiLeaks, provided a detailed eyewitness account of the lavish wedding organised in Makhachkala by Russian State Duma member and Dagestan Oil Company chief Gadzhi Makhachev for his son. The wedding lasted for two days and its attendees included Chechnya′s Ramzan Kadyrov. An FSB colonel sitting next to the cable’s authors tried to add “cognac” to their wine until an FSB general told him to stop.[14][15] In 2015, Burns told Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times that the cable had been “largely written by his colleagues”, with Rachman remarking that the telegram had gained a reputation of “a minor classic of comic writing, its tone very much not what one might expect of a diplomatic cable”.[16] In June 2013, Andrew Kuchins remarked about Burns′ stint in Moscow, “It was a period when the relationship was deteriorating very significantly, but he was personally respected by Russian authorities as a consummate professional diplomat”.[17]

In 2013, Burns and Jake Sullivan led the secret bilateral channel with Iran that led to the interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 and ultimately the Iran nuclear deal.[18][19] Burns was reported to be “in the driver’s seat” of the American negotiating team for the interim agreement. Burns had met secretly with Iranian officials as early as 2008, when President George W. Bush dispatched him.[20]

In a piece published in The Atlantic in April 2013, Nicholas Kralev praised him as the “secret diplomatic weapon” deployed against “some of the thorniest foreign policy challenges of the US”.[21]

Burns retired from the Foreign Service in 2014, later becoming president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.[2]

In November 2020, as Burns′ name was being cited by press as one of several possible candidates to be nominated by Joe Biden for Secretary of State, Russia′s broadsheet Kommersants sources “in the state structures” of the Russian Federation agreed that his candidacy would “be the most advantageous for Moscow of all the five cited” in the media.[22]

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency[edit source]

William Joseph Burns sworn in as CIA Director by Kamala Harris

On January 11, 2021, Joe Biden announced he planned to nominate Burns as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, saying that Burns shared his belief “that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect.”[23][24]

On February 24, his nomination was well-received in the confirmation hearing in the Senate.[25] On March 2, the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved Burns’ nomination, setting him up for a final floor vote.[26] On March 18, Burns was confirmed to the role with unanimous consent after Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) lifted his hold on the nomination.[27] He was officially sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on March 19, with a ceremony performed by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 23, 2021. [2][7]

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate, Burns said “an adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership poses our biggest geopolitical test”.[28] He said China was working to “methodically strengthen its capabilities to steal intellectual property, repress its own people, bully its neighbors, expand its global reach and build influence in American society.”[29]Burns sitting with President Joe Biden, Harris, and the U.S. national security team, August 18, 2021

In April 2021, Biden announced his intention to withdraw all regular U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 2021. Burns told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on April 14, 2021 that “[t]here is a significant risk once the U.S. military and the coalition militaries withdraw” but added that the U.S. would retain “a suite of capabilities.”[30]

On August 23, 2021, Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, who returned to Afghanistan from exile in Qatar, to discuss the August 31 deadline for a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.[31][32]

Publications[edit source]

His memoir, The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, was published by Random House in 2019. It was published in conjunction with an archive of nearly 100 declassified diplomatic cables.[citation needed] International Relations scholars who reviewed the book were mostly positive.[33][34][35]

Burns’ dissertation was published in 1985 as Economic Aid and American Policy Toward Egypt, 1955—1981.[36]

Awards[edit source]

Burns is the recipient of three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and a number of Department of State awards, including three Secretary’s Distinguished Service Awards, the Secretary’s Career Achievement Award, the Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Ambassadorial Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development (2006), the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award (2005), and the James Clement Dunn Award (1991). He also received the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service (2014), the U.S. Intelligence Community Medallion (2014), and the Central Intelligence Agency’s Agency Seal Medal (2014).[citation needed]

In 1994, Burns was named to Time‘s lists of “50 Most Promising American Leaders Under Age 40” and “100 Most Promising Global Leaders Under Age 40”.[37] He was named Foreign Policy‘s “Diplomat of the Year” in 2013.[38] He is the recipient of Anti-Defamation League‘s Distinguished Statesman Award (2014),[39] the Middle East Institute‘s Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), and the American Academy of Diplomacy‘s Annenberg Award for Diplomatic Excellence (2015).[40]

Burns holds four honorary doctoral degrees and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[41] He is also an honorary Fellow, St. John’s College, Oxford (from 2012).[42]

Foreign government decorations[edit source]

Personal life[edit source]

Burns is married to Lisa Carty, a former diplomat and current UN OCHA senior official,[48] and has two daughters. He speaks English, French, Russian, and Arabic.[49]

References[edit source]

  1. ^ “Biographies of the Secretaries of State: Condoleezza Rice (1954–)”U.S. Department of State – Office of the Historian. Retrieved March 29, 2021. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns served as Acting Secretary of State, January 20–21, 2009.
  2. Jump up to:a b c d “About CIA – Director of the CIA”www.cia.govArchived from the original on April 1, 2021. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  3. Jump up to:a b “Ambassador William J. Burns Named Next Carnegie President”. National Endowment for Democracy (NEFD). October 28, 2014. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  4. ^ “US Senate confirms Biden’s health and CIA chiefs”www.aljazeera.com. March 18, 2021. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  5. ^ “William Burns to retire”POLITICO. Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  6. ^ “Durbin Meets With William Burns, Biden Nominee For CIA Director”. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  7. Jump up to:a b “Harris calls Boulder shooting ‘absolutely tragic'”The Hill. March 23, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  8. ^ “Bill Burns Sworn in as CIA Director – CIA”www.cia.govArchived from the original on April 6, 2021. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  9. ^ “Appointment of William J. Burns as a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs”. reaganlibrary.gov. September 26, 1988. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  10. ^ “Nomination of William F. Burns To Be Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency”. The American Presidency Project. January 7, 1988.
  11. ^ Major General William F. Burns (Ret.) (July 8, 2005). “Arms Control Today”. The Arms Control Association.
  12. ^ Pyotr Cheryomushkin (April 27, 2008). “Ядерный дипломат”КоммерсантъKommersant.
  13. ^ “Burns, William J.” United States Department of State. June 4, 2008. Retrieved January 11, 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State.
  14. ^ “Wedding in the Caucasus: The US Ambassador Learns that Cognac Is Like Wine”Der SpiegelArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  15. ^ “US embassy cables: A wedding feast, the Caucasus way”The Guardian. December 1, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  16. ^ “Lunch with the FT: Bill Burns”Financial Times. November 6, 2015.
  17. ^ “U.S. Taps Kerry’s Deputy as Point Man With Russia on Snowden”The Moscow Times. June 13, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  18. ^ Gordon, Michael (April 11, 2014). “Diplomat Who Led Secret Talks with Iran Plans to Retire”New York TimesArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  19. ^ Barnes, Julian E.; Verma, Pranshu (January 11, 2021). “William Burns Is Biden’s Choice for C.I.A. Director”The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  20. ^ http://www.washingtontimes.com, The Washington Times. “Career diplomat William Burns steered the Iran talks quietly though rounds of negotiations”The Washington TimesArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2020. {{cite web}}: External link in |last= (help)
  21. ^ Kralev, Nicholas (April 4, 2013). “The White House’s Secret Diplomatic Weapon”The AtlanticArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  22. ^ “Джо Байден в первых лицах: Что ждать России от внешнеполитической команды будущего президента США”Kommersant. November 9, 2020. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  23. ^ “For CIA director, Biden taps veteran diplomat William Burns”POLITICO. January 11, 2021.
  24. ^ Gramer, Jack Detsch, Amy Mackinnon, Robbie (January 11, 2021). “Biden Taps Career Diplomat William Burns as CIA Director”.
  25. ^ “William Burns, Biden’s CIA pick, vows “intensified focus” on competition with China”.
  26. ^ Matishak, Martin, “Senate Intel unanimously approves Burns to be CIA director: Timing for the final confirmation vote remains unclear” (March 2, 2021). Politico. www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.com/amp/news/2021/03/02/senate-approves-burns-cia-472685. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  27. ^ Jeremy Herb. “Senate confirms William Burns to be next CIA director after Cruz lifts hold”CNN. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  28. ^ “China’s ‘adversarial, predatory’ leadership on radar: Burns”Financial Review. February 25, 2021.
  29. ^ “CIA Nominee William Burns Talks Tough On China”NPR. February 24, 2021.
  30. ^ Putz, Catherine (April 15, 2021). “Biden Announces Plan for US Exit from Afghan War, Urges Attention to Future Challenges”The Diplomat. Archived from the original on April 19, 2021.
  31. ^ “CIA director met Taliban leader in Afghanistan on Monday -sources”Reuters. August 24, 2021.
  32. ^ “CIA chief secretly met with Taliban leader in Kabul: Report”Al-Jazeera. August 24, 2021.
  33. ^ Colbourn, Susan; Goldgeier, James; Jentleson, Bruce W.; Lebovic, James; Charles, Elizabeth C.; Wilson, James Graham; Burns, William J. (December 17, 2019). “Roundtable 11-8 on The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal”H-Diplo | ISSF. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  34. ^ Gavin, Francis J. (December 12, 2019). “Bill burns and the lost art of diplomacy”Journal of Strategic Studies: 1–9. doi:10.1080/01402390.2019.1692661ISSN 0140-2390S2CID 213144471.
  35. ^ “Blame It on the Blob? How to Evaluate American Grand Strategy”War on the Rocks. August 21, 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  36. ^ SUNY Press. www.sunypress.edu/p-193-economic-aid-and-american-polic.aspx. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  37. ^ “What Happened to the ‘Future Leaders’ of the 1990s?”TimeArchived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  38. ^ “Bill Burns Honored as Diplomat of the Year”foreignpolicy.com. Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  39. ^ “Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns Presented with ADL Award”www.adl.orgArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  40. ^ “Walter and Leonore Annenberg Excellence in Diplomacy Award”The American Academy of DiplomacyArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  41. ^ “William J. Burns”Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  42. ^ “RAI in America”www.rai.ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on June 15, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  43. ^ French Embassy U.S. [@franceintheus] (March 7, 2018). “twitter.com/franceintheus/status/971179276132372485” (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  44. Jump up to:a b c Redaksi, Tim (January 11, 2021). “Ini Profil William Burns, Direktur CIA Pilihan Joe Biden”Voice of Indonesia (in Indonesian). Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  45. ^ “受章者(その3止)”mainichi.jp (in Japanese). April 29, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  46. ^ “The Marshall Medal – Marshall Scholarships”www.marshallscholarship.orgArchived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  47. ^ “GAZZETTA UFFICIALE” (in Italian). May 10, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  48. ^ Burns, William (February 9, 2021). “Questionnaire for Completion by Presidential Nominees” (PDF). Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  49. ^ Dorman, Shawn (May 2019). “The Diplomacy Imperative: A Q&A with William J. Burns”American Foreign Service Association. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
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