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CAIR Encourages CIA Director Nominee, a Widely Respected Career Diplomat, to ‘Rein in and Address Human Rights Abuses’ at Spy Agency

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/13/21) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today encouraged President-elect Joe Biden’s newly-nominated director to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – William J. Burns, a widely respected career diplomat with a history of using negotiation to peacefully advance American foreign policy – to adopt a reformist agenda that reins in the excesses of the nation’s top spy agency.

SEE: Biden picks long-time diplomat William Burns to head CIA

Burns is a retired 33-year career diplomat who served under the Obama administration as the Deputy Secretary of State (2011-2014) and under the Bush administration as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (2001-2005). Burns also served as U.S. ambassador to Russia (2005-2008) and Jordan (1998-2001) and speaks Arabic, Russian and French.  

After retiring, Burns led a secret U.S. delegation for talks with the government of Iran, paving the way for the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal.   

In a statement responding to the Biden-Harris administration’s nomination, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:  

“As a widely respected career diplomat, William Burns has shown respect for the rule of law throughout his career. He vocally opposed the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush Administration, as well as the invasion of Iraq. During the Obama Administration, he led the initial negotiations that kept out nation out of another war in the Middle East. 

“We hope that Mr. Burns’ diplomatic experiences will translate into a more transparent and lawful administration of the Central Intelligence Agency, which remains one of the most unaccountable federal agencies in our government. Over just the past 20 years, the agency has overseen kidnapping, torture, black site prisons, and deadly drone strikes around the world without facing any significant consequences for this immoral and illegal conduct.

“We urge Mr. Burns, who possesses first-hand knowledge of our nation’s diplomatic and intelligence gathering activities around the world, to pursue a reformist agenda that separates politics from intelligence, reins in the excesses of the agency, and transparently addresses human rights abuses that the agency has abetted or committed in recent years.”

Last week, CAIR urged Biden’s newly nominated team to lead the Department of Justice to pursue a “bold and transformative” agenda that advances racial justice, protects religious freedom, and ends legal justifications for excesses committed in the name of national security, from discriminatory profiling and warrantless surveillance here at home to deadly drone strikes on civilians overseas. 

In December, CAIR released a detailed agenda detailing policy changes that the Biden-Harris administration should pursue within its first 100 days in office to restore the rights of Americans Muslims and advance justice for all. 
The report identifies 33 new initiatives and policy reforms designed to protect and respect the rights of all U.S. citizens and residents, including Muslims, that the new administration can start to implement the first day in office.   

READ CAIR’s Report: The First 100 Days – Biden-Harris Administration – Restoring the Rights of American Muslims and Advancing Justice for all Americans   

CAIR’s agenda is endorsed by the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, the largest coalition of leading national, regional, and local Muslim organizations and institutions harnessing the collective strength of American Muslims for the greater good of all.       

Washington, D.C.-based CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.        
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.    
 CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,  

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