- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 8, 2009

Advocates for Chinese human rights are urging President Obama to reject the nomination of Charles W. “Chas” Freeman Jr. as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, citing Mr. Freeman’s defense of the Chinese government’s crackdown on democracy activists.

The letter challenges the narrative of many of Mr. Freeman’s defenders, who argue that pro-Israel groups have sought to torpedo the nomination because Mr. Freeman has criticized Israeli policies and chaired an educational institution that received Saudi funds.

The 87 signatories of the letter to Mr. Obama include several Chinese citizens who participated in the 1989 demonstrations in Tiananman Square, including Dan Wang, Gang Liu and Danxuan Yi.

“Mr. Freeman has a longstanding record of defending China’s authoritarian regime,” the letter says. “In his view, for example, China’s nationwide democracy movement in spring of 1989, which protested government corruption and embraced international norms of human rights, was only the ‘propaganda’ of ‘dissidents.’”

The Weekly Standard first published an e-mail from Mr. Freeman to a private list server that argued the Chinese government should have acted more swiftly to suppress the nonviolent demonstrations in Beijing in 1989 because of their threat to public order. The Washington Times has not been able to corroborate the e-mail, and Mr. Freeman has not responded to requests for comment.

The Times reported last week that the inspector general of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will begin a review of Mr. Freeman’s financial ties to Saudi Arabia. Members of Congress last week urged the inspector general to expand that probe to include Mr. Freeman’s position on the international advisory board of the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair thus far has stood by the nomination, which his spokeswoman said was made by Mr. Blair without consulting the White House. The review of Mr. Freeman’s ties to foreign entities is expected to take about a month.

Mr. Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, senior envoy to China and high-level Pentagon official, has many defenders who say he is extremely well-qualified to supervise the drafting of assessments by the nation’s intelligence community.

His son, Charles Freeman, a former trade official for former President George W. Bush, wrote Saturday on the blog Washington Note that while he differed with his father on political issues at times, his father’s appointment “is being challenged these days by a small cabal of folks that believe first and foremost in the importance of allegiance to Israel as a core U.S. priority.”

He added that his father enjoys provoking controversy and is “scary smart … a curmudgeon with a stiletto for a mind. He has the capacity to force the intelligence community to begin asking the questions that need to be asked, as opposed to the questions that they think will generate the answers that best suit the political framework that may have generated the question.”