President-elect Joseph R. Biden has selected William J. Burns, a career State Department official who led the U.S. delegation in secret talks with Iran, to run the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Burns was considered a likely candidate to run the State Department in the incoming Biden administration. He could prove critical in aiding Mr. Biden in restarting discussions with Tehran after Mr. Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.
In a statement early Monday, Mr. Biden said that Mr. Burns “shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical and that the dedicated intelligence professionals serving our nation deserve our gratitude and respect.”
Currently Mr. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has been vocal in his belief that American diplomacy has been damaged in the Trump administration.
Described as a “steady hand” and “very effective firefighter,” by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Mr. Burns spent 32 years at the State Department, where he was the American ambassador in Moscow and in Jordan and in high-level leadership positions in Washington.
Starting in 2013, Mr. Burns led the United States delegation in secret talks with Iran that set the stage for Mr. Obama’s nuclear agreement with the country in 2015.
Mr. Burns has been a trusted diplomat in Republican and Democratic administrations. He has played a role in the agency’s most prominent, and painful, moments over the past two decades.
In 2012, he accompanied the bodies of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on a C-17 flight from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Washington after the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya. In 2002, Mr. Burns wrote a memo called the “Perfect Storm,” that highlighted the dangers of American intervention in Iraq.
Mr. Burns retired from the State Department in 2014.