Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair announced this afternoon that Amb. Charles Freeman asked that his selection to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council be withdrawn. Blair accepted Freeman's request. The choice of Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has sparked controversy because of his views on Israel and his connections with Saudi and Chinese interests.
Yesterday, all seven Republican members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence sent a letter to Blair expressing concerns over Freeman's qualifications for the position, as well as his objectivity.
The NIC is responsible for producing national intelligence estimates and other assessments on specific issues.
Earlier today, Blair defended Freeman during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) brought up Freeman's past business associations and his views on Israel.
Blair responded by stating, in part:
Those of us who know him find him to be a person of strong views, of an inventive mind -- on the analytical point of view -- I'm not talking about policy. And that when we go back and forth with him a better understanding comes out of those interactions, and that's primarily the value that I think he will bring.
Despite that view, Blair today accepted Freeman's request to have his name withdrawn.
-- Thomas Duffy