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Freeman Withdraws From Intel Position

Updated 6:36 p.m.
By Walter Pincus
Charles W. Freeman Jr. withdrew yesterday from his appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council after questions about his impartiality were raised among members of Congress and with White House officials.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said he accepted Freeman's decision "with great regret." The withdrawal came hours after Blair had given a spirited defense on Capitol Hill of the outspoken former ambassador.

The National Intelligence Council oversees production of national intelligence estimates and shorter assessments on specific issues, tapping experts from among the 16 intelligence agencies. The chairman's position does not require Senate confirmation.

Freeman had come under fire for statements he had made about Israeli policies and for his past connections to Saudi and Chinese interests.

One of the first congressmen to raise questions about Freeman, Rep. Steven Israel (D-N.Y.), said yesterday that he spoke of his concerns last week to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and later sent him materials about the former ambassador's statements and associations. Israel, a member of the House Appropriations Committee's Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said in a phone interview, "As I was leaving the White House this afternoon, they told me of Blair's statement" of Freeman's withdrawal. "I think Blair's defense of Freeman was indefensible, and people in the White House realized that."

The congressman said Freeman's withdrawal "preserved the impartiality of U.S. intelligence," and he expected Blair would move on and "will find someone who is unimpeachable of intelligence matters."

Freeman had been ambassador to Saudi Arabia and deputy chief of mission in China.

Since 1997, he has presided over the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that is funded in part by Saudi money. In that role, Freeman has occasionally criticized the Israeli government's positions and U.S. support for those policies. In 2007, for example, he said, "The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no sign of ending," adding, "American identification with Israel has become total."

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) questioned Blair about the appointment yesterday when the intelligence chief came before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Lieberman cited Freeman's past relationships and statements which, the senator said, "appear either inclined to lean against Israel or too much in favor of China."

Blair forcefully defended Freeman, saying the intelligence community needs people with strong views because out of that come the best ideas. But, he added, the job of the intelligence community is not to make policy but to inform it with ideas and that Freeman, "with his long experience, his inventive mind will add to those strongly."

Blair said Freeman's statements had been taken out of context, and he urged members "to look at the full context of what he was saying."

Lieberman countered that he feared that Freeman might not be able "to separate his policy views from the analysis," adding, "whether I disagree or agree with them, he's very opinionated." Blair responded that he could do a better job as DNI "if I'm getting strong analytical viewpoints to sort out and pass on to you and to the president than if I am getting pre-cooked, pablum judgments that don't really challenge."

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) later praised the way Blair defended Freeman, saying the danger of centralized intelligence was the lack of divergent opinion, as was seen in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Since 1997, Freeman has presided over the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that is funded in part by Saudi money. In that role, Freeman has occasionally criticized the Israeli government's positions and U.S. support for those policies. In 2007, for example, he said, "The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no sign of ending," adding, "American identification with Israel has become total."

Freeman has also been faulted for statements about the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. Critics have said complained that he faulted the Chinese for not acting earlier in putting down the demonstrations, but Freeman said the remarks were actually his assessment of how Chinese leaders had seen things.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), the intelligence committee's vice chairman, and the six other Republicans on the panel wrote Blair yesterday to raise "concerns about Mr. Freeman's lack of experience and uncertainty about his objectivity." His appointment, they said, would result in "even more oversight scrutiny to the activities of the NIC under his leadership."

The White House had been largely mum on Freeman's appointment. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked last week about the objections, but he ducked the question.

Opposition to Freeman's appointment has been led by several pro-Israel groups and advocates in the United States, joined by some members of Congress. Last week, nine House Republicans, including Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and two intelligence committee members, joined Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley (Nev.) in asking DNI Inspector General Edward Maguire for a comprehensive review of Freeman's past and current financial, commercial and contractual ties to the Saudi government. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a member of the House intelligence committee, wrote a similar letter to Maguire.

Posted at 6:36 PM ET on Mar 10, 2009  | Category:  National Security
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Comments

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AIPAC and Co. are taking our freedom away in our own country..This needs to STOP!!!

Posted by: hanimal03 | March 12, 2009 5:25 PM

Generally speaking, I support the state of Israel. Seeing how many of its American supporters manipulate and twist the facts to silence and bury a very honorable American who has served our country, well, they just lost a lot of goodwill from me. It's Ok to support an ally, but we need to put American Interests and values first. If the values or policies of our allies don't align with ours we need to have the capacity and freedom to dispute it in our politics.

Posted by: Adrian6 | March 12, 2009 1:17 AM

Freeman dared to criticise Israel, and the most powerful Lobby in the world: The Israeli Lobby, will not allow you that.... Israel cannot be criticised by anyone, they are above right or wrong. The US is currently ruled by Israel through the AIPAC and Co.

Posted by: brendan6 | March 11, 2009 1:19 PM

NOW THAT WE HAVE SHOWN FREEMAN TO HAVE OPINIONS OTHER THAN PRO ISREAL AND ACCUSED OF HAVING TIES WITH CHINA AND SAUDI ARABIA, HOW ABOUT LOOKING AT THE CONGRESSMEN WHO HAVE RECEIVED LARGE SOMES OF MONEY FROM ISREALI LOBBYIST.
MR CANTOR IS MORE LOYAL TO ISREAL THAN HE IS TO THE AMERICANS.

HE IS THE ONLY JEWISH MEMBER OF THE SENATE. HE IS LEADING THE CAMPAIGN TO MAKE THIS PRESIDENT FAIL.

Posted by: sm98yth | March 11, 2009 1:11 PM

Only in America, you are allowed to be a critique of the American policies and still be elected and appointed to the highest ranks, nevertheless, you cannot dare to speak remotely negatively about Israel because that would be a political suicide.

Israel's control over the US had become the elephant in the room.

Posted by: DaniaGharaibeh | March 11, 2009 10:10 AM

KEEPING THE BUSH-CHENEY CABAL IN CHARGE OF THE MILITARY AND INTEL WAS A HUGE MISTAKE.

THE FREEMAN DEBACLE IS ONLY THE LATEST EXAMPLE.

HERE ARE THREE MORE:

* Silent, covert microwave radiation weapons assaults on innocent but "targeted" U.S. citizens;

* Terroristic vigilante community gang stalking, surreptitious home entry, police-tolerated vandalism;

* Secret federal "programs of personal financial destruction."


http://www.nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-targets-terrorizes-u-s-citizens
http://www.nowpublic.com/world/domestic-torture-radiation-weaponry-americas-horrific-shame

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

http://www.NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 11, 2009 2:45 AM

The US is run by the terrorist state of israel.
ALL US Congressmen represent israel or they don't get elected.

Posted by: norcalworm | March 11, 2009 1:11 AM

In the postings thus far, one remarkable fact about Chas Freeman has not been mentioned: he is one of America's greatest linguists. He was the interpreter (English into Chinese) for Kissinger and Nixon's opening to China in 1971-72. When selected ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he knew no Arabic -- a situation the Saudis preferred; they had forced the recall of a previous ambassador who knew their language too well. But in a few months' study, Freeman mastered Arabic to a degree few in the U.S. Foreign Service have matched.

Here is a person uniquely capable of discerning the truth about two cultures of central importance to U.S. interests, because he understands their languages better than almost any other foreigner -- so his insights are shunned by his countrymen. Way to go Israel Lobby! Way to go China Lobby! Our new president is being well served, as usual.

Posted by: HerbThomas | March 11, 2009 12:50 AM

Opps there goes another one, I am losing count, how many is that now

50 days down 1410 to go no more obama

VJ Machiavelli
http://www.vjmachiavelli.blogspot.com
No More Schumer
No More Pelosi

Posted by: VJMachiavelli1 | March 10, 2009 11:52 PM

AIPAC AIPAC UBER ALLES!

Posted by: goldhatresearch | March 10, 2009 10:37 PM

Posted by: Gator-ron...any other country in the middle east. It is seething with hatred. Eventually Americans will tire of Israeli intransigence. Israel can attempt to control American press and American politicians but slowly the message will get through that Israel is not interested in peace.... Unfortunately there is no sign of this happening...the $5 Zionists are very very busy. Strange, the only real competition they have are the 50 cent communists...;)

Posted by: yard80197 | March 10, 2009 10:26 PM

.
Out in the open.....the mad Zionists who rule the State of Israel, also CONTROL the United States of America.

Make note of the 5th Columnists who attacked Charles Freeman. The are the stoogies of the AIPAC and other Jewish power groups. They get their orders right from Tel Aviv.

Dissent, Free Speech, and Critical Thought are FORBOTTEN ..........

,

Posted by: JAMadison4 | March 10, 2009 10:24 PM

When you hear that indicted former AIPAC director Steve Rosen, The New Republic, Commentary, Eli Lake, (Rep. Israel) and Chuck Schumer are spearheading opposition to something, you don’t say to yourself “they must be concerned about the human rights situation in China!” -James Fallows, The Atlantic

But, Oh No!, Walt/Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby" is a rendition of the "Protocols of Zion."...

Posted by: optimist3 | March 10, 2009 10:24 PM

I am another Obama supporter who agrees that the loss of Freeman is unfortunate. We will see if this is a foreshadowing of weakness when it comes to Israel. If it is, there will be no signs of peace and the coziness between Israel and the US will be unchanged.

If there is peace in that region there will have to be a realignment of land in the West bank and that will be tantamount to civil war. Israel is no different than any other country in the middle east. It is seething with hatred. Eventually Americans will tire of Israeli intransigence. Israel can attempt to control American press and American politicians but slowly the message will get through that Israel is not interested in peace. Then will see if Warren Buffett's assessment that Israeli is stable is in fact correct.

Posted by: Gator-ron | March 10, 2009 10:09 PM

Once again we see the Israel Lobby stop any opposition by using its well-oiled political machine. The election of Freeman to the chairmanship of N.I.C. didn’t stand a chance against this machine once he dared to criticize Israel.

This political machine is well-oiled, and well-organized, by people like Rep. Steven Israel & Rahm Emanuel. Israel takes care of Congress & Emanuel takes care of the White House.

Posted by: Nachopop | March 10, 2009 9:52 PM

This was all too predictable, including Obama's failure to support even one voice critical of our established foreign policy.

So much for "wanting to hear different opinions."

Posted by: johnalene | March 10, 2009 9:40 PM

sorry...i meant peace process..LOL

Posted by: kevin1231 | March 10, 2009 9:20 PM

Do you really think that the U.S., as being the arm of the Israeli interests, should be viewed as an objective party to any piece process in the middle east. Yeah, right. Its as ludicrous as Israel wanting piece.

Posted by: kevin1231 | March 10, 2009 9:19 PM

"One of the first congressmen to raise questions about Freeman, Rep. Steven Israel (D-N.Y.)"

Now we have congressmen whose names are named after the state of Israel....LOL There is a serious question to be asked whether the U.S. is still a sovereign country or is it being run by the Israeli interests?

Posted by: kevin1231 | March 10, 2009 9:14 PM

"The White House had been largely mum on Freeman's appointment. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked last week about the objections, but he ducked the question."

So what else is new? This parrot does as his master does.

Over and over again we get to see the phenomenal job the Obama administration does in vetting their nominees. Flawless..there is no other word that can describe it.

Obama can't afford to lose the Jewish vote. Leftists will have to live with the fact that we are a nation that proudly supports Israel, regardless of which Party is in power.

Posted by: conservativemaverick | March 10, 2009 9:06 PM

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | March 10, 2009 8:48 PM

By what stretch of imagination did Obama & Co think that Freeman would be accepted by the Intelligence Oversight Panel? It would have generated a firestorm from the Democrats, and the Republicans would only be too glad to stoke the fire.

Suddenly the vaunted Obamarmour has a lot of chinks. This is with the much heralded Axelrod still proffering his advice. It doesn't compute.

Posted by: pKrishna43 | March 10, 2009 8:44 PM

Our government's First Commandment: Thou shalt not speak the truth about Israel. And once again, if anyone challenges Israel's appalling actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians or Lebanon, out comes the ol' charge of anti-Semitism.

Posted by: greener_pastures | March 10, 2009 8:42 PM

Mr. Freeman was too able an advocate for the Saudi government when he was an ambassador. He was so able that James Baker, no friend of Israel, felt that Mr. Freeman did not represent our interests. From the revolving door of Saudi diplomacy to private practice, Mr. Freeman parlayed himself into a good-paying job at the Saudi-funded think tank. He also was too well financed by the Chinese government (the oil company), for whom he was willing to understand their murder of Tiananmen Square protesters. The solution? Stop blaming the Jews with these conspiracy theories that permeate many of the comments posted today. Instead, pay our foreign service officers more money so that they are not inclined to audition their opinions, while diplomats, with the prospect of future rewards when they move onto "private practice".

Posted by: istanbuli | March 10, 2009 8:27 PM

Another vetting embarrassment for the White House…

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | March 10, 2009 8:06 PM

Losing Freeman is a tragedy for the USA and we have the irrational wings of the Israel lobby and the human rights lobby to thank for it - as well as someone in the White House or the NIC with too little fortitude. All of the controversy whipped up by these forces was generated through misunderstanding and outright lies. As a human rights supporter I am ashamed of my fellow humanitarians that did not step up to defend Freeman. As for the pro-Israel extremists - I wish they would put their loyalty with the USA or go live in Israel. Freeman is a rare, no-nonsense no-BS fellow we badly need in the NIC. As an Obama supporter I'm very disappointed that the White House did not tell the loonies to take a hike.

Posted by: jay_casey | March 10, 2009 7:54 PM

LOL!

Posted by: JakeD | March 10, 2009 7:43 PM

Speaking truth to power exemplifies bravery for a reason -it is risky. Shame on the Washington Post for its role in the smear campaign against Freeman. Andy Alexander, what is it you do here again?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | March 10, 2009 7:42 PM

Now I have lost ALL RESPECT for Obama. Where is your backbone POTUS? Don't you get it that we elected you to STAND UP TO AIPAC? This is utterly disgusting. We REAL AMERICANS are sick and tired of seeing our leaders BEND OVER to Israel Lobby. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | March 10, 2009 6:50 PM

"Lieberman ... said, "appear either inclined to lean against Israel..."

WTF? Does every US foreign policy appointee have to sign a loyalty oath to Israel?

When are we going to stop substituting Israel's priorities for our own? This slavish unquestioning loyalty to Israel helped bring on 9/11. What good does it get us? Nothing as far as I can tell.

Posted by: RealChoices | March 10, 2009 6:13 PM

I guess he got it on Good Intelligence;

that it was time to Beat those Feet!

Run AWAAAYYYY!!!!

The Tax Man was about to Cometh! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | March 10, 2009 6:02 PM

Absolutely disgusting. Does anyone doubt the existence of the Israel lobby, and its power to crush anybody who disagrees with them?

I'm appalled. America isn't Israel's freaking kid brother.

Posted by: davestickler | March 10, 2009 5:59 PM

There is more diversity of opinion allowed in Israel than in the US. AIPAC has done more to damage I/P peace propepects than Hamas and Hezbollah combined.

Posted by: pablo5z | March 10, 2009 5:32 PM

AIPAC has won (again) and we can kiss goodbye any hope of a two-state solution or ME peace under the Obama administration. The attacks on Freeman amounted to a smear campaign, and that they succeeded will have a chilling effect on any others who might consider speaking the truth about our lopsided approach to ME peace.

Obama should have supported Freeman; he needs a diversity of opinion coming from those who advise him, on Israel as well as any other issue. Why didn't he? And I say this as someone who has spent hours each day for a very long time now supporting Obama (just google "Wordie Obama" to see how diligently I have spoken out on Obama's behalf), and who doesn't necessarily agree in all ways with Freeman's views (his actual views, that is, not the ones that the Israel-hawks have accused him of having). This is a sad day - I had really hoped for a new approach.

Posted by: WordieWaPo | March 10, 2009 5:24 PM

AIPAC, once again, decides our Foreign Policy positions.

Posted by: beachykeen02 | March 10, 2009 5:23 PM

At least there's no such thing as the Israel Lobby. Right?

Posted by: BBpd | March 10, 2009 5:22 PM

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