At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) questioned National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair about his selection of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council.
Freeman’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute have raised concerns among neoconservatives weeks ago. In recent days, Freeman’s critics have made “unpersuasive attempts at describing [him] as ‘hostile’ to Israel; a radical ideologue; and an apologist for human rights abuses are what remains of the opposition.”
Yesterday, a group of Senate Republicans on the Intelligence committee wrote a letter to Blair questioning Freeman’s selection, and distributed it to the press. “Given our concerns about Mr. Freeman’s lack of experience and uncertainty about his objectivity, we intend to devote even more oversight scrutiny to the activities of the NIC under his leadership,” the senators wrote.
This morning, Lieberman amplified the Republicans’ criticisms. “I’m concerned,” Lieberman told Blair, expressing his worries over “statements that [Freeman’s] made that appear either to be inclined to lean against Israel or too much in favor of China.” Blair offered this cogent defense of Freeman:
A mutual friend said about Ambassador Freeman — who I’ve known for a number of years — there is no one whose intellect I respect more and with whom I agree less than Ambassador Freeman. Those of us who know him find him to be a person of strong views, of inventive mind from an analytical point of view – I’m not talking about policy – and that when we go back and forth with him, a better understanding comes out of those interactions. That’s primarily the value that I think he will bring.
“The concern about Ambassador Freeman is that he has such strong policy views,” Lieberman responded. Matt Duss notes that Freeman is “apparently the only person in Washington not allowed to have any” strong opinions.