Free­man pulls out as queries over ties mount

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY ELI LAKE

Mount­ing bi­par­ti­san pres­sure led Charles “Chas” W. Free­man Jr. to with­draw March 10 as head of the body that pre­pares U.S. in­tel­li­gence es­ti­mates, as ques­tions mounted over Mr. Free­man’s ties to Saudi Ara­bia and China.

The an­nounce­ment came in a terse state­ment from Den­nis C. Blair, di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence.

Mr. Blair “an­nounced to­day that Am­bas­sador Charles W. Free­man Jr. has re­quested that his se­lec­tion to be Chair­man of the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Coun­cil does not pro­ceed,” the state­ment read. “Di­rec­tor Blair ac­cepted Am­bas­sador Free­man’s de­ci­sion with re­gret.”

Al­though the post does not re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion, Mr. Free­man had been meet­ing with mem­bers of Congress to try to as­suage their con­cerns about con­flicts of in­ter­est.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral of the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, in re­sponse to con­gres­sional re­quests, had opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Mr. Free­man’s for­mer post as an ad­viser to the China Na­tional Off­shore Oil Corp. and lead­er­ship of the Mid­dle East Pol­icy Coun­cil, a Wash­ing­ton think tank, im­pinged on his abil­ity to lead the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Coun­cil and su­per­vise the prepa­ra­tion of sen­si­tive as­sess­ments.

Repub­li­cans went pub­lic with their op­po­si­tion to the pick, and se­nior Democrats also ex­pressed con­cern be­hind the scenes.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, said he was pleased that Mr. Free­man had with­drawn.

“Charles Free­man was the wrong guy for this po­si­tion,” Mr. Schumer said. “His state­ments against Is­rael were way over the top and se­verely out of step with the ad­min­is­tra­tion. I re­peat­edly urged the White House to re­ject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”

In 2006, Mr. Free­man ap­peared to blame U.S. pol­icy to­ward Is­rael for the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks. He told a group of Mid­dle East pol­icy an­a­lysts in Wash­ing­ton, “We have paid heav­ily and of­ten in trea­sure in the past for our un­flinch­ing sup­port and un­stint­ing sub­si­dies of Is­rael’s ap­proach to manag­ing its re­la­tions with the Arabs. Five years ago, we be­gan to pay with the blood of our cit­i­zens.”

The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Plum Line blog and the Weekly Stan­dard re­ported two weeks ago that Mr. Schumer had called White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to com­plain about Mr. Free­man.

Oth­ers ex­pressed re­gret that Mr. Free­man had stepped down from the post.

“This is a loss to the na­tion of a very tal­ented an­a­lyst,” said Ron­ald E. Neu­mann, a for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Afghanistan, Al­ge­ria and Bahrain, who was among a dozen for­mer se­nior U.S. diplo­mats who sent a let­ter ear­lier this month to the Wall Street Jour­nal de­fend­ing the choice.

“There should be no sub­jects that are taboo, no views that are taboo, only a ques­tion of the in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments be­ing hon­est. And there is noth­ing to sug­gest that the as­sess­ments [un­der Mr. Free­man] would be any­thing but hon­est.”

Re­fer­ring to pres­sure by pro-Is­rael leg­is­la­tors and groups against the nom­i­na­tion, Mr. Neu­mann added that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “is go­ing to have a tough job con­vinc­ing Arabs that they can play an even-handed role” af­ter the Free­man with­drawal.

Mr. Free­man, in an e-mail to Chris Nel­son, au­thor of the Nel­son Re­port, an e-mail news­let­ter on for­eign pol­icy, wrote: “I have con­cluded that the bar­rage of li­belous dis­tor­tions of my record would not cease upon my en­try into of­fice. The ef­fort to smear me and to de­stroy my cred­i­bil­ity would in­stead con­tinue. I do not be­lieve the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Coun­cil could func­tion ef­fec­tively while its chair was un­der con­stant at­tack by un­scrupu­lous peo­ple with a pas­sion­ate at­tach­ment to the views of a po­lit­i­cal fac­tion in a for­eign coun­try.”

He went on to de­fend his record and ac­cuse pro-Is­rael groups of sab­o­tag­ing his ap­point­ment.

“The li­bels on me and their eas­ily trace­able email trails show con­clu­sively that there is a pow­er­ful lobby de­ter­mined to pre­vent any view other than its own from be­ing aired, still less to fac­tor in Amer­i­can un­der­stand­ing of trends and events in the Mid­dle East. The tac­tics of the Is­rael Lobby plumb the depths of dis­honor and in­de­cency and in­clude char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion, se­lec­tive mis­quo­ta­tion, the will­ful dis­tor­tion of the record, the fabri­ca­tion of false­hoods, and an ut­ter dis­re­gard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is con­trol of the pol­icy process through the ex­er­cise of a veto over the ap­point­ment of peo- ple who dis­pute the wis­dom of its views, the sub­sti­tu­tion of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness for anal­y­sis, and the ex­clu­sion of any and all op­tions for de­ci­sion by Amer­i­cans and our gov­ern­ment other than those that it fa­vors.”

The Wash­ing­ton Times first re­ported last week that the in­spec­tor gen­eral of the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence had be­gun to ex­am­ine Mr. Free­man’s ties to Saudi Ara­bia and China.

The first shot fired against the nom­i­na­tion came from Steven J. Rosen, the for­mer di­rec­tor of for­eign pol­icy for the Amer­i­can Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. Mr. Rosen, who is fac­ing trial for dis­clos­ing classified in­for­ma­tion about Iran pol­icy to an Is­raeli diplo­mat and a re­porter, now blogs for the Philadel­phia-based Mid­dle East Fo­rum.

Op­po­si­tion to Mr. Free­man ex­panded be­yond the pro-Is­rael com­mu­nity to in­clude the hu­man rights com­mu­nity, peo­ple wary of China and even Ti­betan in­de­pen­dence ac­tivists. They cited com­ments by Mr. Free­man that ap­peared to de­fend China’s 1989 crack­down on demon­stra­tors in Tianan­men Square.

Peo­ple close to Mr. Free­man said the com­ments had been taken out of con­text from a pri­vate e-mail list and that Mr. Free­man was de­scrib­ing how China’s gov­ern­ment viewed the protests. But com­bined with Mr. Free­man’s busi­ness ties to China, the views raised con­cerns.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illi­nois Repub­li­can, who pres­sured Mr. Blair for Mr. Free­man to dis­close his fi­nan­cial ties, said he was pleased by the with­drawal.

“The White House in a thought­ful and con­sid­ered de­ci­sion made the right call to pro­tect the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Coun­cil,” he said.

UNITED PRESS IN­TER­NA­TIONAL

Gone: Charles Free­man

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