Confirm Bolton

Posted: May 23, 2005 12:00 AM
George Voinovich is an honorable man. So, when the junior Senator from Ohio says he has decided to vote against President Bush?s nomination of John Bolton to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on the basis of the record developed in the Foreign Relations Committee, one has to ask: What record?

The transcripts of the Committee hearings and business meetings on the Bolton nomination, and the interviews with various State Department, intelligence community and other past and present government employees now available online, establish that ? while there are certainly people who dislike Secretary Bolton ? the numerous, highly publicized complaints against him have not been substantiated. Even more troubling is the fact that relevant information Senators need to know has been withheld from them.

The complaint that has been most frequently cited by Mr. Bolton?s critics is to the effect that he sought to manufacture or otherwise manipulate intelligence and tried to get two analysts who resisted him fired. Mr. Bolton denies doing so. And the record backs him up.

The Committee?s sixteen interviews conducted on this topic establish the following: When John Bolton sought in early 2002 to give a speech that addressed, among other things, the capability for offensive biological weapons inherent in Cuba?s advanced biotech industry, he did it by the book. Since the draft speech drew on available intelligence, his office ? represented by a staffer, Fred Fleitz, who is himself a career CIA analyst ? sought Intelligence Community clearance.

Although intelligence did indeed support Mr. Bolton?s proposed statement, as Thomas Fingar, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) put it: ?[INR analyst Christian Westermann] tried to flag to Fred where he thought the draft was going beyond the IC consensus as conveyed in a DIA-led briefing on the Hill.?

Westermann then proceeded ? in a manner the Foreign Relations Committee record confirms Mr. Fingar and two of Westermann?s other INR supervisors agreed was improper ? to try to sabotage clearance of the Bolton speech by the Intelligence Community. When confronted with evidence he had done so, Westermann lied to Mr. Bolton. The result was that Bolton understandably felt he could not trust the analyst, a sentiment he conveyed to Westermann?s ultimate boss, Assistant Secretary of State Carl Ford.

As part of a scathing personal attack on Mr. Bolton, Ford testified to the Committee that he had ?the impression that I had been asked to fire the analyst.? But under questioning he was unable to say that was what Bolton actually asked for. And two of his subordinates explicitly told the Committee that Bolton had not sought to have Westermann fired, simply given other duties.

Mr. Ford might have ascertained this to be the case had he bothered to make inquiries. He told the Committee, however, that he had not done so. And, in any event, Westermann?s immediate supervisor testified that he was ?not aware? of Mr. Bolton?s response to the analyst?s misconduct making people in INR ?antsy? about working with Sec. Bolton. So much for the latter?s purported ?chilling effect? on intelligence with which he disagreed and those who generated it.

A second analyst, the then-National Intelligence Officer for Latin America, Fulton Armstrong, similarly earned Mr. Bolton?s ire when he took it upon himself to disparage the Under Secretary of State in a meeting with three Senators shortly after the Cuba speech was given. Armstrong asserted that Mr. Bolton had not properly cleared the speech within the Intelligence Community. The Foreign Relations Committee has established, however, that this claim was untrue, a fact documented by a coordination sheet properly signed off on by every relevant agency and by Carl Ford?s testimony.

What Senators like George Voinovich might not have gotten from their review of the Committee?s record, however, is why assessments of Cuban offensive biological warfare capabilities would engender such unprofessional behavior on the part of two intelligence analysts. That would be because the record has been deliberately left incomplete on this important score.

Foreign Relations staffers took testimony from one witness who was, at the time of the Bolton speech, the Assistant Secretary of State for Otto Reich. They refused to include in the transcript, however, information that Senators need to know. Specifically, Mr. Reich pointed out that secret U.S. assessments about Cuba had been compromised. The woman responsible for Cuba at the Defense Intelligence Agency ? whose briefing on the Hill Westermann was so attached to ? was Ana Belen Montes, a spy for Fidel Castro. Montes? name was also redacted from documents submitted to the Committee by the Intelligence Community that might have shed light on her role in disinforming the U.S. about Cuba.

Neither does the Committee record reflect the background Mr. Reich provided about Fulton Armstrong. Fortunately, although his testimony on this topic was obliged to be ?off the record,? Secretary Reich wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 14, 2005 that:

?In my opinion, and that of many of my fellow ?intelligence consumers,? we were not receiving the best possible intelligence analysis from this highly placed officer. I documented complaints about the analyst in question in a classified three-page letter which I handed out to [his] supervisor. I specifically stated that I did not want to see the officer punished in any way, but that I did expect from the intelligence community a less biased and more professional analysis, which this individual had proven incapable of providing.?

Senators should, indeed, judge Secretary Bolton by the record. What is available, confirms that Mr. Bolton is a man of integrity, conviction, fortitude with the ability to get things done, even in a hostile bureaucracy ? perfect qualifications for the UN. The information deliberately withheld from the record, moreover, only reinforces the bottom line: John Bolton should be confirmed.