Commentary: The IC's analyst in chief


WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- A rarity in Washington, the secret was well kept until the announcement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair. His deputy as chairman of the National Intelligence Council is Charles "Chas" W. Freeman Jr., a Chinese-speaking iconoclast with a brilliant analytical mind that is anathema to the Israel lobby and the neocons.

Lucky for former Ambassador Freeman that Judaism, in contrast to Christianity, does not believe in mortal sins. But his sin is beyond redemption in Washington. Freeman is convinced that U.S. and Israeli strategic interests are not necessarily one and the same. This triggered a cascade of epithets from "Saudi puppet" to "Chas of Arabia linked to Saudi cash" to "China-coddling, Israel-basher." Leading the charge was Steve Rosen, former foreign policy director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.


Rosen, long one of AIPAC's most influential officials on Capitol Hill, is under federal indictment since Aug. 4, 2005, for alleged violations of the Espionage Act while carrying out the lobby's work. With co-defendant Keith Weissman, he faces a frequently postponed trial, now scheduled to begin April 29. Currently with the Middle East Forum, Rosen won't have much trouble establishing policy planning documents routinely made their way between friends from the Pentagon to the Israeli Embassy.


Freeman's new job as analyst in chief for the intelligence community is to produce medium-term and long-term strategic thinking, compiled from the best thinking of 16 intelligence agencies that employ 100,000 (almost half of them analysts) at a cost to the taxpayer of $50 billion a year.

In a speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy in 2007, Freeman said, "We embraced Israel's enemies as our own; they responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies."

The new job of Freeman, the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia (during Gulf War I), is "to provide policymakers with the best information: unvarnished, unbiased and without regard to whether the analytic judgments conform to current U.S. policy." NIC's quadrennial piece de resistance is the Global Briefing. Timed for release between Election Day and Inauguration Day, it "assesses critical drivers and scenarios for future global outcomes approximately 15 years out." From time to time, the Global Briefing, like all forecasts, makes astrology look respectable.

This latest, titled "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World," was briefed to Congress by DNI Dennis C. Blair. He called the global economic and financial crisis "our greatest threat," creating as it does millions more desperate people, many of them drawn to angry acts, also "regime-threatening instability," the kind of chaos that plays into al-Qaida's terrorist agenda.


Freeman incurred the wrath of AIPAC when he said in 2007, "Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them." Haaretz, The New York Times of Israel, frequently makes the same point, most recently with a secret defense document that established the creeping annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Another conclusion, guaranteed to raise Israeli hackles, is Freeman's long-held belief that the terrorism the United States confronts is due in large measure to "the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that has lasted over 40 years and shows no signs of ending." Accurate or not, this same refrain is heard from scholars to politicians to journalists in Arab and other Muslim capitals the world over. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Gaza "an open-air prison." And now this week's Newsweek cover blares in Arabic script, "Radical Islam is a fact of life." Fareed Zakaria explains "How to live with it." "We don't have to accept the stoning of criminals," he writes. "But it's time to stop treating all Islamists as potential terrorists."

The fact is that radical Islam has gained a powerful foothold in the Muslim imagination, says Zakaria, and television reporting on the death and destruction caused by Israeli bombs in the recent 22-day air and ground campaign in Gaza only strengthens the ranks of extremists.


Freeman also says Israeli contingency plans to bomb Iran's nuclear installations would trigger Iran's formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities up and down the Persian Gulf and throughout the Middle East, where it can mobilize such surrogates as Hezbollah and Hamas. Neoconservative conventional wisdom, recently expressed publicly by former Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle, is that Iran is bluffing. Three years ago Perle told this reporter two B-2B bombers, each with 17 independently targetable weapons systems, could set Iran's nuclear program back a few years. Now Perle says the neocon movement is a figment of its detractors' imagination. Neocons, he adds, played no role in persuading President Bush 43 to invade Iraq.

They will have a tough time trying to persuade President Obama to bomb Iran's nuclear weapons installations. In fact, according to Haaretz, the United States has already turned down Israeli requests for military hardware to help it prepare for an aerial attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Mercifully for Freeman, the NIC job is not subject to Senate confirmation. Had it been, Freeman would have been axed with a nod from AIPAC. But Blair made clear where he stood. His statement said Freeman will be responsible for overseeing the production of National Intelligence Estimates and other intelligence community analytical products, providing substantive counsel to the DNI and senior policymakers on issues of top national security importance. NIEs are key factors in shaping foreign policy, particularly in wartime.


Freeman, 64, first joined the Foreign Service in 1965, and served in India and Taiwan before his Chinese-language abilities landed him the assignment of principal interpreter during President Nixon's breakthrough visit to China and his historic meeting with Mao in 1972. He later become deputy chief of mission in Beijing, and his aptitude for languages took him to various Asian posts before he became deputy Africa chief at the State Department, and later ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1989-92). He also served at the Pentagon as assistant secretary for international security affairs during the Clinton administration. And in 1997 Freeman succeeded George McGovern to become president of the Middle East Policy Council, which "strives to ensure that a full range of U.S. interests and views are considered by policymakers." Or the flip side of Washington's pro-Israel think tanks.

Latest Headlines