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Former Top Intel Candidate Responds To Critics


President Obama's choice to lead the National Intelligence Council has withdrawn his agreement to serve in that position.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 Mary Louise Kelly reports.

MARY LOUISE KELLY: The National Intelligence Council is supposed to inform government policy, not make it. The council's members rarely grant on-the-record interviews and generally stay out of the public eye. But Charles Freeman has a record of speaking his mind on U.S. policies regarding China and Israel in particular.

So Freeman's nomination faced opposition from the start. Though, a series of former U.S. diplomats rallied to his defense, all seven members of the Senate Intelligence Committee took a stand opposing Freeman's appointment. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair was defending him at a Senate hearing just hours before he withdrew. Blair called Freeman a person of strong views and an inventive mind. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: All seven REPUBLICAN members of the Senate Intelligence Committee opposed Freeman's appointment.]

Mr. DENNIS BLAIR (National Intelligence Director): And when we go back and forth with him, better understanding comes out of those interactions. And that's primarily the value that I think he will bring.

KELLY: Blair has since said he accepts Freeman's decision with regret. For his part, Chas Freeman has fired back at his critics, issuing a statement that says he has concluded, quote, "The barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office." And Freeman added he has never spoken on behalf of a foreign government, its interests or its policies.

Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 19, 2009 at 9:50 AM EDT
We mistakenly said that "all seven members" of the Senate Intelligence Committee opposed Freeman's appointment. We should have said all seven Republican members.
Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.