Exclusive: Obama’s Pick to Head National Intelligence Council Disgraceful and Dangerous

by THE EDITORS March 5, 2009
Charles “Chas” Freeman is expected to begin his job as the head of the National Intelligence Council within the next few weeks. An appointed position that doesn’t need congressional approval, Freeman will be heading the group that produces the government’s most comprehensive intelligence analyses for the president. Freeman will be in the position of deciding what President Obama sees, as well as what he doesn’t see.
A career diplomat, Freeman has served in the State Department before, as well as in the Clinton Defense Department – but the list of concerns regarding his appointment is quite alarming:
  • A former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Freeman is also president of the Middle East Policy Council. In 2006, he said in an interview with a Saudi media outlet that the MEPC owes its endowment to "generosity of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia." According to Zawya, a Middle Eastern news service, that donation was $1 million. Questions have been raised by several lawmakers regarding a possible conflict of interest.
  • Editorial content of MEPC’s journal, Middle East Policy, which is published under Freeman’s authority, claims among other things that the Iraq war was fought on Israel’s behalf, that the IDF used Nazi-style tactics during the Six Day War, and that the U.S. works to protect Israel’s “victim status.”
  • Since 2004 he has sat on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, owned by China’s communist government.
  • Speaking of China, in a 2006 e-mail, Freeman said that the Chinese government should have moved more swiftly to crush rebellion during the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. “The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than – as would have been both wise and efficacious – to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China.”
Frank Gaffney points out that this “garbage in, garbage out” mentality is dangerous to our security:
[I]f the chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) – the organization responsible for producing the National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) that are supposed to reflect the best insights of the intelligence community as a whole and that usually guide U.S. government security decision-making – has a well-established and anti-American policy agenda, he will likely try to discount or exclude insights from NIEs that conflict with his biases. Such a politicization of intelligence would have far-reaching implications for American interests and security.
Could this happen? In fact, it did in 2007 under the Bush administration. In December of that year, the National Intelligence Council – then under the leadership of another product of the State Department, Thomas Fingar – produced an NIE that declared "with high confidence" that the Iranian mullahs had halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003. An unclassified summary of that estimate was made public with much fanfare, and with a transparent political purpose: To deny President Bush grounds for attacking Iran so as to prevent the regime there from getting the bomb.
At the time, many intelligence and defense experts challenged the Iran NIE's much-ballyhooed conclusion as preposterous and misleading. It was even belied by findings elsewhere in the estimate. Today, however, no sentient being thinks this National Intelligence Estimate's principal finding was accurate.
And the editors of National Review Online also raise a red flag:
Three of the major foreign-policy challenges the United States faces today involve the survival of Israel, the Saudis’ promotion of radical Islam, and the ambitions of China. To navigate them, Obama has chosen a fierce critic of Israel – our only reliable ally in the region where threats to the United States are most immediate – whose track record is one of kowtowing to our enemies in the Mideast and our rivals in Beijing.
Freeman has an irrepressible instinct for the appalling. In a public forum in 2002, Freeman decried “America’s lack of introspection about September 11.” What commanded Freeman’s attention was not the jihadist ideology that brought about the murder of nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens, but what he described as “an ugly mood of chauvinism” in the United States. Americans, he maintained, “should examine ourselves” as we consider “what might have caused the attack.”
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair’s spokewoman tells us that the post is “one of analysis, not policy.” Yet it’s the analysis under Freeman that will help to shape policy, and the concern is that his biases will influence the analysis.
Why President Obama would choose a man with Freeman’s history to keep his finger on the pulse of international security issues is beyond us. The more flippant among us might wish for yet another tax scandal to surface, although that’s not necessarily a barrier to serving with the Obama administration – just ask Tim Geithner.
Freeman should do the honorable thing and resign the post before even stepping foot in the NIC offices. Barring that, let’s hope enough lawmakers put pressure on the administration to rescind the nomination. Our security could well depend on it.

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