Daily News Update, US POLITICS



Confirmation Hearing – CIA- China- US Senate- William J. Burns

February 24, 2021

TrueNewsBlog – TNB

TRUENEWSBLOG – William J. Burns, President Biden’s nominee to lead the C.I.A., faced questions at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday on challenges facing the spy agency, including improving intelligence on China, increasing support for officers affected by unexplained ailments and boosting morale among a work force battered by the criticism of former President Donald J. Trump.

China is likely to be the focus of questions from a number of lawmakers. Mr. Burns was expected to say that an “adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership poses our biggest geopolitical test.”

Mr. Burns, according to current and former officials familiar with his remarks, will also say that the C.I.A. should direct more funding and resources to spying on China, adding more Chinese specialists and ensuring its employees have strong Mandarin language skills.

He will link the threat of China to the need to invest in new technology to help improve intelligence collection and analysis.

Lawmakers are also likely to raise questions about ailments suffered by current and former agency officers as part of a series of mysterious incidents that have befallen agency officers overseas. Some current and former agency officials have said Russia is the most likely perpetrator of those attacks, but the C.I.A. leadership during the Trump administration described the evidence as not conclusive.

While Mr. Burns is unlikely to discuss those episodes in detail, he will reassure lawmakers that he has “no higher priority” than taking care of the agency’s personnel.

An experienced diplomat with service in Russia and Jordan, Mr. Burns was tapped in large measure because of his close relationship with Mr. Biden and his ability to clearly explain complex foreign policy problems.

The first time that Jake Sullivan, now the national security adviser, met Mr. Burns in December 2008, the veteran ambassador pulled out a small notecard and gave a round-the-world briefing on every major issue to then-incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “It was one of the single most impressive displays of breadth and depth on substance that I have ever witnessed,” Mr. Sullivan said.

But the Biden administration has also set up a strong national intelligence office and given it a string of high-profile tasks. Some former officials believe some tension could develop between Mr. Burns and Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, if they compete for the ear of the president.

Mr. Sullivan brushed away the possibility of tension, saying Mr. Burns and Ms. Haines have a trusting relationship. Others said their personalities — far less sharp-elbowed than recent intelligence chiefs — lend themselves to collaboration rather than confrontation.

Mr. Burns has experience as a consumer — not a creator — of intelligence. But as the ambassador in Jordan and Russia, he led two embassies where C.I.A. stations had a critical role. And he has close relationships with numerous C.I.A. officers, including some killed in the line of duty.

“Our chiefs thought he was a terrific person to work for; he understood our role,” said George Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, who worked with Mr. Burns. “He understands the business of intelligence and what it can do.”

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