Burns warns of China and Russia and discloses gifts from ambassadors including Saudi ambassador

[27-02-2021 11:59 AM]

Ammon News -

President Biden’s nominee to lead the C.I.A. pledged during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday to improve spying on China, warned of Russia’s ability to interfere with American affairs and promised to deliver apolitical intelligence to the White House, leaning on his long diplomatic experience to win over senators, NYTIMES reported.

The nominee, William J. Burns, argued that China was an adversarial power and the intelligence community’s greatest geopolitical challenge. He called for investing more resources and personnel as well as technological innovation, NYTIMES noted.

He also warned that even as a declining power, Russia has shown it can be disruptive. And he pledged to examine evidence about mysterious attacks that have left a number of C.I.A. officers with lingering ailments, making a commitment to a work force battered for years by former President Donald J. Trump, according to NYTIMES.

Mr. Burns’s confirmation as C.I.A. director seems all but assured, with a large bipartisan majority of senators supporting him. A vote by the full Senate could come next week.

The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing was far more of a coronation than a confrontational question-and-answer session, with more of the discussion focusing on foreign policy than intelligence matters, perhaps unsurprising given Mr. Burns’s experience as ambassador to Jordan and Russia, as well as the senior State Department positions he has held.

In answers to written questions from the Senate, Mr. Burns disclosed gifts he had received while at Carnegie. Most were bottles of wine from allied ambassadors. But he also disclosed that he participated in a group trip to the Super Bowl, paid for by the Saudi ambassador, raising questions about the propriety of accepting such a lavish gift from a country with a troubled human rights record, NYTIMES reported.

While the timing of the gift was not disclosed on the Senate document, a person familiar with the trip said it occurred in February 2018, eight months before the killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi sowed deep doubts about the Saudi government, NYTIMES indicated.

The intelligence community is expected to release as early as Thursday a declassified report about Mr. Khashoggi’s death and the culpability of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The C.I.A. concluded in 2018 that Prince Mohammed ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, according to NYTIMES.


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