Saudi/Manchurian candidate to be vetted

Eli Lake reports that 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. Quite apart from any financial issues, Freeman is a horrible selection given his substantive positions, as I argued here and here.

The investigation is likely to focus Freeman’s position on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC). The Chinese government and other state-owned companies own a majority stake in the concern, which has invested in Sudan and Iran, among other countries. As I noted in my first post about Freeman, there is strong evidence that, in internet exchanges, he has defended the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The investigation may well focus, in addition, on Freeman’s role as president of the nonprofit educational organization Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), which paid him $87,000 in 2006, and received at least $1 million from a Saudi prince. MEPC is a mouth-piece for the Saudis. Under Freeman’s leadership, it has published an abridged version of the notorious essay by Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” which argues that American Jews have a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress, and use it to advance Israeli interests at the expense of those of the U.S.

According to Lake’s report, Freeman has not submitted the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates for senior public positions. It may also be the case that the National Director of Intelligence, Dennis Blair, did not seek the White House’s approval before announcing Freeman’s appointment. That, at least, is the story Blair is putting out. If true, a lack of White House involvement in such a dreadful pick would be comforting at some level. In a case like this, incompetence is preferable to affinity. Unfortunately, I suspect that both factors were present here.

The question of foreign finanial ties provides the Obama administration with the opportunity to pull the plug on Freeman. It should do so. And, if Blair really selected Freeman without seeking White House approval, perhaps the White House should pull the plug on him too.

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