Consortium News Editor's Note: Former U.S. Ambassador Chas Freeman has been tapped to head the National Intelligence Council, which oversees the production of National Intelligence Estimates on threats facing the United States.
But his reputation as a frank-speaking "realist" has drawn fire from neoconservatives who have organized a powerful lobbying campaign to derail his selection. In the following letter to Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair - dated March 8 - the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urge Blair to resist the pressure:
Admiral Dennis Blair
Director of National Intelligence
Dear Director Blair:
We write to give strong endorsement to your choice of Chas Freeman for Chair of the National Intelligence Council.
We, the undersigned, worked at senior levels of key intelligence agencies. Our aggregate service represents 130 years and includes close familiarity with virtually all the key tasks over which Freeman is to have purview.
Your naming of Freeman reflects awareness that National Intelligence Estimates and the President's Daily Brief are of such critical importance that the NIC requires a leader of unquestioned integrity and competence. The experience of the several years before Tom Fingar took the reins at the NIC constitutes abundant proof of this.
Fingar's retirement led to concern that it would be difficult to find a person with Fingar's professionalism and experience. We were relieved to learn you had found such a person in Freeman.
In normal circumstances, Chas Freeman would need no endorsement from us. He is fearless in speaking truth without fear or favor, qualities that are sine qua non for the job.
His unusually balanced comments in past years on the Israel-Palestine issue, for example, are very much in keeping with decades of U.S. policy - that is, until our honest broker role was jettisoned by the previous administration.
We are not surprised that many pundits and other public figures, aghast at the appointment of a senior intelligence official able to take a more balanced view of the Arab-Israel issue, have launched a strong campaign to derail the Freeman appointment.
We find the heated attacks on Freeman unprecedented in their vehemence, scope and target. Never before have we witnessed such a well-coordinated campaign against the appointment of a senior official to an intelligence job not requiring Senate confirmation.
It will surely come as no surprise to you that, as DNI, you can expect to be on the receiving end of relentless, agenda-laden lobbying. Reaction to the Freeman appointment seems a harbinger of things to come.
We strongly urge you to send a strong message to those creating pressure on you to back down. Please do our new President and the intelligence community the favor of finalizing your appointment of Chas Freeman as Director of the National Intelligence Council.
Ray Close, Near East Division, Directorate of Operations, CIA (26 years)
Larry Johnson, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA; State, Pentagon intelligence (24 years)
W. Patrick Lang, Col., US Army (ret.), Defense Intelligence Officer and Director of Collection, DIA (30 years)
David MacMichael, Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (2 years)
Ray McGovern, US Army Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA (30 years)
Scott Ritter, US Marine Intelligence Officer, UN Chief Inspector (18 years)
Coleen Rowley, Special Agent and Bureau Counsel, FBI (24 years)