February 24, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed Ambassador William Burns – nominee to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – on the need for the Intelligence Community (IC) to provide unvarnished facts to policy-makers, regardless of the implications for the Administration’s preferred policy. Ambassador Burns affirmed his commitment that under his leadership, the CIA would provide unbiased intelligence, and emphasized that he understood the position is not a policy-making role.
“There is a lot of talk today – rightly so – about truth to power,” said Senator King. “And sometimes that sounds too easy. And my concern is that it is not – it is more subtle than someone doctoring intelligence or changing it. It is human nature to want to tell the boss what they want to hear. So the question is how do we build a structure to be sure that that is the ongoing policy and that we don't slip into a kind of comfortable relationship with the President or this Committee or the Secretary of Defense where it is more of an unconscious process, but the result is the same: biased intelligence that undermines good decision making.”
Senator King has long been a strong supporter of an independent, apolitical Intelligence Community, and earlier this year pressed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on the need to depoliticize the IC during her confirmation hearing. He raised this issue during the nomination of DNI John Ratcliffe, who he voted against confirming in part due to then-Congressman Ratcliffe’s extensive political background. Senator King also expressed his opposition to President Trump’s removal of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, arguing: “When America has more hard thinkers with independent, evidence-based judgment, we are all safer and stronger…When speaking the truth leads to potential retribution, we know less and are at increased risk; the world we live in is darker and more dangerous.”