Lawmaker wants review of Freeman hire

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A member of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence oversight subcommittee wants to review the hiring of a Saudi partisan to a top intelligence post.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) in a letter Feb. 27 to Edward Maguire, the inspector general in the office of the director of national intelligence, said he was conveying his "deep concern" over the appointment of Charles Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council and asked Maguire’s office to conduct an investigation into his relationships with the Saudi government.

Freeman’s appointment by Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, has stirred controversy because in his most recent capacities, Freeman headed the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council think tank as well as Projects International, a consultancy firm that represents U.S. defense contractors doing business with the kingdom.

A former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Freeman took prominent roles defending Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks after it was revealed that 15 of the 19 suicide attackers were Saudis.

He also has persistently accused Israel of being principally to blame for the failure of peace talks.

"In a position as critical as this, we need to ensure that American interests are being served and that no one in the position has established ties to other governments or entities materially supported by foreign governments," Israel wrote.

Separately, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is on the broader Appropriations Committee, is gathering signatures for a letter to Maguire demanding a similar review.

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