“I've learned that politics must stop where intelligence works begin,” William Burns told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “That is exactly what President Biden expects of CIA.”
Burns said the president "wants the agency to give it to him straight, and I plan to do just that and to defend those who do the same."
The comments from Burns were aimed at drawing a contrast with the prior administration, when President Donald Trump faced repeated accusations of politicizing intelligence and he publicly disputed the assessments of his own intelligence agencies, most notably about Russian election interference.
Burns is a former ambassador to Russia and Jordan who served at the State Department for more than 30 years under both Democratic and Republican presidents. His well-known status in diplomatic circles makes his confirmation likely.
He acknowledged that he would be returning to government at a time of diverse international security threats, including from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
Burns appeared before the committee one day after members held a hearing on Russian hacks that targeted the U.S. private sector and federal government agencies. He said that intrusion was a “very harsh wake-up call about the vulnerabilities of supply chains and critical infrastructure” and that the CIA had to work even harder to detect and prevent cyberoperations from abroad, to help attribute blame and to develop its own capabilities.
He also said that "outcompeting China" would be a core national security priority in the coming years.