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Candidate For Top Intel Analyst Post Withdraws

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

President Obama's choice to lead the National Intelligence Council has withdrawn his agreement to serve in that position. Chas Freeman, a veteran diplomat, had come under fire for statements he's made in the past about China and Israel.

NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.

TOM GJELTEN: The National Intelligence Council is a kind of think-tank for the U.S. intelligence community and prepares national intelligence estimates for policymakers on key security issues and global hotspots. The Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, last month picked Chas Freeman to chair the council sighting his wealth of knowledge and expertise in defense diplomacy and intelligence.

Freeman served under the first President Bush as an assistant secretary of Defense and as an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He started his diplomatic career as a China specialist and was actually Richard Nixon's interpreter on Nixon's 1972 trip to China. But in recent years, as a private citizen, Freeman has been an outspoken critic of some U.S. policies, especially regarding China and Israel. Because of that, his appointment to the National Intelligence Council was vigorously criticized, though a series of U.S. diplomats rallied to his defense, all seven Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee took a stand opposing Freeman's appointment. His selection was not subject to Senate confirmation, but Freeman apparently decided to halt the controversy.

According to a statement from Dennis Blair's office, Freeman requested that his selection not proceed. The Intelligence director accepted Freeman's decision with regret.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten
Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.
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