Obama national-security choice has foreign conflicts of interest

The Obama administration has picked Charles “Chas” Freeman to head its National Intelligence Council, which analyzes intel data and issues the NIEs that have created controversy and impacted American policy.  However, as Eli Lake reports, the administration apparently never noticed Freeman’s connections to foreign governments when it chose Chas.  Freeman has longstanding financial ties to the Saudis, and once complained that the Chinese didn’t act quickly enough to oppress the Tiananmen Square protests:

An independent inspector general will look into the foreign financial ties of Chas W. Freeman Jr., the Obama administration’s pick to serve as chairman of the group that prepares the U.S. intelligence community’s most sensitive assessments, according to three congressional aides.

The director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, last Thursday named Mr. Freeman, a veteran former diplomat, to the chairmanship of the National Intelligence Council, known inside the government as the NIC. In that job, Mr. Freeman will have access to some of America’s most closely guarded secrets and be charged with overseeing the drafting of the consensus view of all 16 intelligence agencies.

His selection was praised by some who noted his articulateness and experience as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a senior envoy to China and other nations. But it sparked concerns among some members of Congress from both parties, who asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s inspector general, Edward McGuire, to investigate Mr. Freeman’s potential conflicts of interest.

The data floating up to the media on Freeman has already caused the Obama administration to take action — by throwing their new Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, under the bus, although Blair helpfully threw himself under it this time:

Mr. Freeman has not submitted the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates for senior public positions, according to the general counsel’s office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Nor did Mr. Blair seek the White House’s approval before he announced the appointment of Mr. Freeman, said Mr. Blair’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi.

“The director did not seek the White House’s approval,” Ms. Morigi said. “In addition to his formal background security investigation, we expect that the White House will undertake the typical vetting associated with senior administration assignments.”

In retrospect, it’s hard to see how Blair and Obama expected Freeman to get through the process unremarked.  Freeman heads the non-profit think tank Middle East Policy Institute, which exists on a $1 million grant from the Saudi royal family.  He chairs another foreign-policy non-profit that also takes foreign funds.  Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose husband receives those funds, Freeman’s living has come from foreign sources directly, who have spent a lot of cash looking to influence American policy.  Is that the kind of person we want handling our intelligence?

But Jonathan Chait, not exactly a conservative apologist, discovered the real smoking gun in Freeman’s background this week:

The most extreme manifestation of Freeman’s realist ideology came out in a leaked e-mail he sent to a foreign policy Internet mailing list. Freeman wrote that his only problem with what most of us call “the Tiananmen Square Massacre” was an excess of restraint:

“[T]he 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. In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at ‘Tian’anmen’ stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action. . . .

“I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ ‘Bonus Army’ or a ‘student uprising’ on behalf of ‘the goddess of democracy’ should expect to be displaced with despatch [sic] from the ground they occupy.”

The main moral failing in Freeman’s analysis is that there is a huge difference between a “Bonus Army” occupying ground in a democratic capital, where people can elect their own leaders and govern themselves, and a demonstration by advocates of such liberty in an oppressive regime like China.  Anyone this dismissive of peaceful, nonviolent protest against a dictatorship has no business opining on foreign policy at all, let alone being put in charge of our intelligence analysis.

Jen Rubin wonders what the hell is going on in the West Wing — and the media:

All of this once again leads to the conclusion that there is chaos in the vetting apparatus of the Obama administration. How a position of this import could be filled without full consideration of the obvious policy and financial objections – and with the feigned or actual cluelessness of the White House — is quite simply shocking. And now that the administration has a full blown firestorm on its hands the question remains: how quickly will Freeman join Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle and the “performance czarina” under that proverbial bus?

And one final note: since nearly all of the MSM has been ignoring this story they are now in the uncomfortable position of trying to “catch up” their readers: “Well, there was this appointment, a raging debate, a dishonest denial of any awareness of the issue by the White House and congressional letters of protest — which, dear readers, we ignored — but now let us tell you about a serious vetting lapse in the intelligence community.” Once again, the mainstream media are revealed to have been carrying water for and masking the horrendous slip-ups of an administration which obviously warrants closer scrutiny.

We know what’s going on in the White House: incompetence.  We also know what’s going on in the media: hero worship.  The meme of  The Most Successful Transition Evah has not quite worn out among national media, but when people look back at the collection of tax cheats, incompetents, and sell-outs that Obama has brought into government, the verdict will not be anywhere near as sunny.