For Charles "Chas" Freeman, the Chas Freeman controversy is over. But
for the Obama administration, it may just be beginning.
If you were unaware of the controversy over the appointment of Mr.
Freeman to be director of the National Intelligence Council, it's
probably not your fault. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and
most of the rest of the "mainstream" media didn't report there was a
controversy until March 10, the day Mr. Freeman withdrew.
Typically, the head of the National Intelligence Council has at least
some intelligence experience. Mr. Freeman had none. But he was career
diplomat who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, and was
an assistant secretary of defense in the first Clinton administration.
The major part of the controversy over Mr. Freeman was what he has done
since leaving government service. Since 1997 he's been head of the
Middle East Policy Council, a lobbying group funded chiefly by Saudi
Arabia. And since 2004 he's served on the board of the China National
Offshore Oil Corp., a company owned chiefly by the Chinese government.
It isn't a good idea to have a key slot in the Intelligence Community
filled by someone who's been in the pay of two unfriendly foreign
The other part of the controversy has to do with what Mr. Freeman's
supporters call his "outspokenness." He has been vociferous in his
condemnation of Israel and of Israel's supporters in the United States.
And in a 2006 email, he had this to say about the Chinese government's
crushing of the "Democracy Movement" protesters in Tiananmen square in
"I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to all the heart of
its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting
the normal functions of government...I thus share the hope of the
majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of
Zhao Ziyang's dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic
protesters in China."
Mr. Freeman's "outspokenness" was on display in his withdrawal
"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
the utter disregard for truth. The aim of this Lobby is to control the
policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of
people who dispute the wisdom of its views."
In an editorial March 12, the Washington Post noted the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee took no position on the Freeman nomination, and
that he was done in chiefly by the opposition of House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, who objected to his support for the crushing of Chinese
"Crackpot tirades such as his have always had an eager audience here and
around the world," the Post noted. "The real question is why an
administration that says it aims to depoliticize U.S. intelligence
estimates would have chosen such a man to oversee them."
Indeed. I was among those pleased when President Obama selected Admiral
Dennis Blair to be the Director of National Intelligence. Though he had
no intelligence experience, he'd commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and
had been a Rhodes scholar. But Mr. Blair's selection of Mr. Freeman and
his lack of awareness of the opposition to Mr. Freeman building on
Capitol Hill raise questions about Mr. Blair's fitness for the job he
Another Blair pick heightens those concerns. He's named former CIA
Director John Deutch to a panel to review spy satellite programs. Mr.
Deutch lost his job and his security clearances in 1996 when agency
officials discovered he was storing classified materials on his home
computers, despite repeated warnings they could be intercepted via the
So we have a Director of National Intelligence with no intelligence
experience and demonstrably poor judgment, and a CIA director, Leon
Panetta, who also has no intelligence experience. There are places
where on the job training is not appropriate.