- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nothing so becomes Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. as the elegance of his departure.

In typical Washington style, after many newspapers and network newscasts had set their stories yesterday, Freeman announced that he was stepping down as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. That is the time of day that governments save for announcements that they are not proud of.

It was the right decision, as readers of this page know. The chairman of the council should be someone whose instincts are more collaborative than contrarian, someone who eschews rather than seeks controversy, and, ideally, an intelligence professional whose private views are kept private. In the past eight years, we have heard a lot of “politicized intelligence” and some of that criticism was even merited. One of the things we have learned is that intelligence products have to be above suspicion - as pure as Caesar’s wife. So we were troubled by the extent of Freeman’s financial ties to foreign governments that were at odds with the United States. The ambassador’s disdain for Tibet’s long-suffering democracy movement was particularly galling. So we reluctantly concluded that Freeman was too controversial for such a sensitive office.

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The public may never know exactly what mysterious entities are underwriting Freeman’s Middle East Policy Council, a factor which may have played a decisive role in his decision to step down. After all, he was facing an inspector general’s investigation.

Since the chairman of the National Intelligence Council is not subject to Senate confirmation, it fell to the press to investigate Freeman’s background. The Washington Times, including our Eli Lake and writers on this page, unearthed many disturbing documents bearing on Freeman’s ability to carry out the duties of his office and act in the best interests of the United States. Other papers also found other worrisome details.

We are pleased that Freeman has taken our advice. We wish him the best of luck in private life. We hope that Freeman’s successor, when he is chosen, is a quiet professional who wins the admiration of his colleagues and the trust of our allies. America is still at war with terrorists and fighting for its ideals in many dark corners.

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