Another top Obama administration official pulled the plug today on their appointment, and this time it has nothing to do with unpaid taxes.
Charles Freeman, picked as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, resigned before even starting his job after criticism over policy, specifically his opprobrium for Israel and his ties to Saudia Arabia.
"Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman's decision with regret," Blair's office said in a statement.
The council draws information and analysis from all US intelligence agencies to produce national intelligence estimates.
Freeman served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 1993 to 1994 and was US ambassador to Saudi Arabia heading into and during the Persian Gulf War.
Since 1997, the Washington Post reported today, he has presided over the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based nonprofit funded in part by Saudi money. In that role, Freeman has occasionally criticized the Israeli government. The Post says that in 2007 he said, "The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no sign of ending," adding, "American identification with Israel has become total."
Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Freeman's appointment. So did groups including the National Jewish Democratic Council, whose executive director Ira N. Forman had said Freeman is "not a pick I would make" and appears to be a "strong Arabist."
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks applauded Freeman's withdrawal. "This news will come as a relief to the large and growing group of Americans who have grown concerned about the judgment and process that led to the selection of this flawed appointment," he said in a statement, adding that "it is unfortunate that important questions went unaddressed by the Obama White House on those occasions they were raised. It's troubling how much effort it took to get them to face up to this problem."
Representative Steve Israel, a New York Democrat on the House Select Intelligence committee, also said Freeman had done the right thing.
“Ambassador Freeman has every right to his opinions, however those opinions would have no place in our National Intelligence Estimates. We learned from eight years of the Bush administration that intelligence cannot be cherry-picked. It cannot be colored by opinion or even the appearance of conflict. With Ambassador Freeman’s departure, we have preserved the impartiality of US intelligence," Israel said in a statement.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.