Charles (Chas) Freeman, chosen by U.S. President Barack Obama to head the White House National Intelligence Council, has turned down the job. Dennis Blair, director of the National Intelligence Agency, announced the decision on Tuesday afternoon in a statement "with regret."
Blair had cited Freeman's "wealth of knowledge and expertise in defense, diplomacy and intelligence" last month when he recommended the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia for the post. It was a controversial choice; Freeman has blamed Israel for the current unrest in the Middle East between Arabs and the Jewish State and in the past has implied acceptance for Hamas terrorist attacks.
Freeman Slams 'Israel Lobby'
In an angry letter sent to U.S. foreign policy officials following his announcement, Freeman accused the "Israel lobby" of deliberately slandering him.
The former ambassador claimed that several quotes in the media that had raised red flags among pro-Israel Americans had been taken out of context.
"The libels on me... show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East,” Freeman said. “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 an utter disregard for the truth.”
Stiff Republican Opposition to Freeman
Had he accepted the nomination, Freeman would have faced stiff resistance from all seven Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, although the post does not require Senate confirmation. In addition, two leading Republican Congressmen, backed by at least one Democrat, demanded an investigation into Obama's choice, questioning Freeman's financial ties.
Freeman's appointment has been contested due to his outspoken criticism of some key government policies in Israel and China. Freeman has also disagreed with some of the U.S. policies regarding the nation's war on terror.
A past apologist for Saudi and Chinese behavior, he has chaired Projects International, a group representing American business interests in both countries. He also served as the director of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council, an Arab lobby that routinely promotes anti-Israeli messages.
If the appointment had gone through, Freeman would have chaired the top think tank for the U.S. intelligence community, one that is tasked with providing "national intelligence estimates" on security issues and global hotspots for policy makers.