Blair Defends Freeman’s Integrity
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 8:48 am
Tim Starks at Congressional Quarterly reports on a letter that Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair sent to Congress defending his National Intelligence Council director, Chas Freeman, against allegations of improper financial ties to foreign governments. That was the most serious charge against Freeman, and it doesn’t look like it’s held up:
In a copy of one of the letters obtained Monday by CQ, Blair wrote that the Middle East Policy Council has received no more than a twelfth of its annual budget from Saudi Arabia and does not take stances on issues or lobby; Freeman, he also wrote, did not discuss any of the Chinese company’s dealings with Iran while on the company’s board, a position which provided him with about $10,000 annually. The MEPC job provided Freeman with between $76,000 and $84,000 annually, the letter said.
Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has never been a lobbyist, would not serve the director in any policy capacity, and his international-business development firm, Projects International, has never had foreign governments as clients, Blair states.
Blair wrote that an inspector general review of Freeman’s service on the council combined with the security-clearance process, and a required public financial disclosure form “will put to rest any questions about Ambassador Freeman’s suitability, character and financial history.”
It looks like the unpersuasive attempts at describing Freeman as “hostile” to Israel; a radical ideologue; and an apologist for human rights abuses are what remains of the opposition. If a certain coalition wanted to make Freeman a test case of its continued influence in the Obama administration, it miscalculated. But if what that coalition wanted was an easy dodge to dismiss the NIC’s intelligence products, it can take heart from this aspect of Starks’ piece, about a letter that Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee sent to Blair:
“Given our concerns about Mr. Freeman’s lack of experience and uncertainty about his objectivity, we intend to devote even more oversight scrutiny to the activities of the NIC under his leadership,” the senators wrote.
Oversight is Good. Bad-faith rejections of uncomfortable intelligence analysis are Bad. We already know which one Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the Republican vice chair of the committee, favors.
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