Born in Rhode Island in 1943, Charles (“Chas”) Freeman, Jr. earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Joining the United States Foreign Service in 1965, he worked in India and Taiwan before being assigned to the State Department’s China desk. Freeman served as the principal interpreter during President Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to China, and later became the State Department’s Deputy Director for Republic of China Affairs.
After holding various positions within the State Department, Freeman was named Deputy Chief of Mission in Beijing, China — and later in Bangkok, Thailand. In 1986 he became Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. And from 1989-92 he served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
In 1992-93 Freeman was a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies. In 1993-94 he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. In 1994-95 he was a Distinguished Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. And in 1995 he was named Board Chairman of Projects International, Inc., a business-development firm based in Washington, DC.
In 1997 Freeman succeeded George McGovern as President of the nonprofit Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), a post he has held ever since. MEPC is an organization with close ties to Saudi Arabia. In a 2006 interview, Freeman stated that MEPC had received a $1 million endowment, thanks to “the generosity of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.” The following year, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud gave another $1 million to MEPC. (Prince Alwaleed’s offer of $10 million to New York City shortly after 9/11 was famously turned down by then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani because it was accompanied by the suggestion that America should scale back its support for Israel.)
Many of Freeman’s public statements during his time at MEPC suggest that he identifies with certain aspects of the Saudi worldview. In a 2002 speech, for instance, he spoke as an apologist for Islamic terrorism while condemning the United States:
“Saudis and other Gulf Arabs were shocked by the level of ignorance and antipathy displayed by Americans toward them and toward Islam after September 11. The connection between Islam and suicide bombing is a false connection. Kamikaze pilots were not Muslims…. And what of America’s lack of introspection about September 11? Instead of asking what might have caused the attack, or questioning the propriety of the national response to it, there is an ugly mood of chauvinism. Before Americans call on others to examine themselves, we should examine ourselves.”
Consider, in addition, Freeman’s comments lauding MEPC’s publication of John Mearsheimer’s and Stephen Walt’s controversial 2006 essay, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” which claimed that American Jews had a “stranglehold” on U.S. politicians and decision-makers. Freeman endorsed the essay and boasted, “No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it.”
In a 2007 address to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, Freeman said that “Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them.” Moreover, he explained that the U.S. had provoked Islamic terrorism by failing to put an end to “the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.”
In a fall 2007 speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy, Freeman said:
“In retrospect, al Qaeda has played us [Americans] with the finesse of a matador exhausting a great bull by guiding it into unproductive lunges at the void behind his cape. By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country. Meanwhile, we embraced Israel’s enemies as our own; they responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies. We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker [in order] to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists.”
According to researcher Ashley Rindsberg, Freeman has cultivated a host of pre- and post-9/11 “business connections” with the bin Laden family which have donated “tens of thousands of dollars a year” to MEPC.
Apart from his work with MEPC, Freeman also sits on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), whose majority owner is the Chinese government. The Corporation has investments in Sudan as well as Iran and other countries that are often at odds with the United States. During Freeman’s time on the board, the CNOOC has been investigated by the State Department for violating the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.
In a 2006 Internet post, Freeman criticized Chinese authorities for not having moved swiftly enough to disperse democratic protestors and dissidents assembled in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989:
“[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at ‘Tiananmen’ stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action….
“I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ ‘Bonus Army’ or a ‘student uprising’ on behalf of ‘the goddess of democracy’ should expect to be displaced with despatch [sic] from the ground they occupy.”
During a China forum at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in October 2006, Freeman opined that warnings of a looming Chinese threat against America constitute nothing more than “a great fund-raiser for the hyper-expensive advanced weaponry our military-industrial complex prefers to make and our armed forces love to employ.”
In 2008, Freeman’s “Projects International,” a company that develops international business deals, made donations to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
In early 2009 President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, selected Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council (NIC).
Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director for policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, was among the first to denounce the Freeman appointment. Bryen said that although the MEPC “is a non-profit, Freeman actually worked as a lobbyist,” albeit an unofficial one, “because he took his money from people with a particular point of view, so his analysis of certain issue[s] may be distorted by the fact of where the money came from.” Bryen added that even if “Saudi Arabia’s concerns mirror our own” on occasion, Freeman’s relationship with the Kingdom suggests that “he may be beholden to a foreign government.”
Bryen found Freeman’s remarks about Tiananmen Square “even more troubling.” “He still hasn’t disavowed them,” said Bryen, “and he seems willing to consider that the requirements of an unelected government” like Communist China’s take precedence over the rights of ordinary citizens to life, let alone freedom of assembly.
Echoing Bryen’s concerns was Laurent Murawiec, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, who said that Freeman “is part of the crowd,” the “cabal” — which includes the State Department and the CIA — that under George W. Bush issued the “mendacious” National Intelligence Estimate which erroneously concluded that the Iranian regime had stopped its efforts to weaponize its nuclear program.
After he was nominated to chair the NIC, Freeman failed to submit the financial-disclosure forms required of all nominees. Nor was he formally vetted by the White House. Instead, an independent inspector was assigned to investigate Freeman’s foreign financial ties, amid growing criticism of his appointment by senior members of the House of Representatives. As the criticism continued to swell, Freeman withdrew his name from consideration for the NIC post on March 9, 2009.
Portions of this profile are adapted from the article “Another Man Down,” written By Kathy Shaidle and published by FrontPageMag.com on March 11, 2009.