White House not following Freeman flap

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House press secretary said he was unaware of concerns about an appointee for a top intelligence post.

Robert Gibbs told reporters at Tuesday’s briefing that he had "not read" reports about Charles "Chas" Freeman’s ties to Saudi Arabia or critical comments about Israel. Freeman was appointed last week to chair the National Intelligence Council, the No. 2 intelligence post in the nation, by Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair.

Gibbs then reiterated President Obama’s commitment to pursue peace in the Middle East.

"I think anybody can look at what the president has said and what the president’s views are, enumerating from the very beginning of this administration the desire to be engaged actively in the Middle East region to ensure a durable and lasting peace," Gibbs said. "It is something that he’s said he would work on each and every day.

"I think people can be reasonably assured of where the president is on this and how he’ll be actively engaged in seeking Middle East peace."

Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, most recently chaired the Saudi-funded Middle East Peace Council, and defended the kingdom in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks after it was revealed that 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis. He also has blamed Israel for the failure of peace talks.

Meanwhile, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he hopes the Freeman appointment is withdrawn. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) also wrote to  Blair expressing his concerns about Freeman.

The Journal reported that Hoekstra and Blair met Tuesday and that Hoekstra plans to meet Freeman within the next week.

Hoekstra’s missive is the third congressional letter in the last four days expressing concern over the appointment. The two other letters — one from Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and the other signed by eight Republicans, including the top two in the House, and one Democrat — requested that the inspector general of Blair’s office investigate Freeman’s financial ties to Saudi Arabia.

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