The controversy of the appointment of Charles "Chas" Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council continues to simmer, with today’s biggest new development probably being the defense of the appointee by a spokeswoman for Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair — who made the appointment. From AFP:
Blair "looks forward to Ambassador Freeman assuming his new role" once his vetting is complete, the director’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, said in a statement that flatly disputed some of the toughest charges.
Freeman would coordinate "national intelligence estimates," highly sensitive assessments for US presidents and other decision makers that reflect the view of all 16 US spy agencies on potential threats like Iran.
The story notes the new call yesterday by Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for an investigation of Freeman’s ties to a Chinese oil company, and Morigi’s response:
[Israel and Kirk] noted that Freeman served on the board of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), which has done business with Iran.
"Ambassador Freeman’s service on the Board of Directors of a company owned by a foreign government seems to constitute an obvious conflict of interest — especially given his service to a company owned by the People’s Republic of China with significant investment in the Islamic Republic of Iran," they said.
But Freeman resigned from CNOOC’s board February 1 and "made it clear to CNOOC from the outset that as a US citizen he could not deal with any Iranian issues, period," said Morigi.
Blair "welcomes" Maguire’s probe, she said, because "in addition to the security clearance process and public financial disclosures, Director Blair believes that the IG report will put to rest any questions about Ambassador Freeman’s suitability, character and financial history."
"Blair selected Ambassador Freeman because he thought he was the best person for the job given his exceptional talent, experience, and ability to produce first rate assessment products," she said.
(2) The attack on "unarmed students" at Tian’anmen (actually at Muxudi and Fuxingmen and other locations outside Tian’anmen) came after many weeks, even months, in which the Chinese leadership had lost control of security in their own capital. (The troops were, in fact, fired upon at Muxudi, though it is not clear by whom.) The only surprise to me (and other realists, including, I gather, you) was that the Chinese leadership did not act earlier to restore order. We would have done so, judging by the precedents set by MacArthur and our National Guard over the decades from 1920 – 1950. The main lesson those leaders who survived the affair have drawn from it, in fact, is that one should strike hard and strike fast rather than tolerate escalating self-expression by exuberantly rebellious kids. If June 4 tells us anything about the Chinese leadership it is that they are reluctant, often to the point of rashness, to resort to the use of force against their fellow citizens.
(3) I am frankly stunned that you would argue that China has not "become more tolerant of dissent" in recent years. No one can have spent any time at all talking to ordinary people in China over the past two decades and have this view. Of course, outright opposition to rule by the Chinese Communist Party continues to draw a sharp response from the authorities. No government, including our own, is or should be asked to be prepared to tolerate efforts to overthrow it and the constitutional order it administers. (Ironically, despite our ideological predilections to believe the contrary, I am aware of no evidence that Chinese currently consider their government less "legitimate" or worthy of support than Americans do ours — but I defer to [name redacted by TWS] and other experts on this.) Certainly, China continues to fall far short of our minimal expectations for human and civil rights in many respects but it has made very significant progress on many levels. To deny this is primarily to raise questions about the extent to which one has been able to observe readily observable reality.
Finally, Greg Sargent at The Plum Line says Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was scheduled to meet with Freeman today.