Intelligence Failure

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Obama recruits from China Inc. to fill a critical national-security post.

Charles Freeman is a career diplomat, a Saudi apologist, and a savage critic of Israel. He also argues that Beijing did not strike down the Tiananmen Square protesters with sufficient swiftness. Barack Obama proposes to make him head of the National Intelligence Council. It’s an abominable appointment.

The National Intelligence Council is, as its website says, “a center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence . . . and providing the President and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the Intelligence Community.” The NIC plays a crucial role in determining what specific intelligence the president consumes from the torrents of information gathered by 16 different agencies. As chairman, Freeman will decide how that intelligence is framed. So how does he view the world?

Freeman is a career foreign-policy savant, with several stints in the State Department and one in the Clinton Defense Department. He has distinguished himself as a rabid Israel-hater who regards the Jewish state’s defensive measures as the primary cause of jihadist terror. He is a shameless apologist for Saudi Arabia (where he once served as U.S. ambassador) despite its well-documented record of exporting terrorists and jihadist ideology. And he is a long-time sycophant of Beijing, where he served as Richard Nixon’s interpreter during the 1971 summit and later ran the U.S. diplomatic mission.

     His Chinese associations are alarming. Since 2004, Freeman has sat on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is owned by the Communist government. Its 2005 attempt to purchase Unocal, the American oil giant, was thwarted by Congress for national-security reasons.

Brutal as his benefactors in Beijing have been, Freeman wished them more brutal still: The Weekly Standard has unearthed a 2006 e-mail in which Freeman faults Chinese authorities for not moving swiftly enough in 1989 to crush democracy demonstrators. “The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities,” wrote Freeman, “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.”

With that in mind, it is unsettling that Freeman will play a key role in determining what intelligence the president sees — and what he doesn’t. As NIC chairman, he will have a strong hand in the production of National Intelligence Estimates, reports that are pivotal in determining the direction of U.S. policy. An errant NIE can be a dangerous thing. Recall the disastrous 2007 NIE that concluded, against the evidence, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Though quickly abandoned, that NIE helped soften our national resolve to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, even as the mullahs ramped up production.

Three of the major foreign-policy challenges the United States faces today involve the survival of Israel, the Saudis’ promotion of radical Islam, and the ambitions of China. To navigate them, Obama has chosen a fierce critic of Israel — our only reliable ally in the region where threats to the United States are most immediate — whose track record is one of kowtowing to our enemies in the Mideast and our rivals in Beijing.

Freeman has an irrepressible instinct for the appalling. In a public forum in 2002, Freeman decried “America’s lack of introspection about September 11.” What commanded Freeman’s attention was not the jihadist ideology that brought about the murder of nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens, but what he described as “an ugly mood of chauvinism” in the United States. Americans, he maintained, “should examine ourselves” as we consider “what might have caused the attack.”

The post of NIC chairman is an executive-staff appointment, meaning that Freeman, though an intimate Obama adviser, is not subject to vetting through Senate confirmation hearings. But what we already know is reason enough for alarm.

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