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John Bolton Is Far From a Whistleblower

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton may be many things — but he is certainly not a whistleblower.

Although Democrats and the liberal media are portraying Bolton’s recent memoir as a so-called “bombshell,” his book is nothing but a political smear job from start to finish. Bolton’s purposeful comingling of highly-classified information with salacious opinions is hardly historic or brave — it’s sad and dangerous.

Listen, I know a thing or two about exposing shadow operations in the federal government. I also know the importance of building a bulletproof case against government agencies that are abusing their power. There is no room for error, particularly when it comes to describing information that may jeopardize U.S. national security. Whistleblowers have a responsibility to be truthful about their claims, and to ensure that their work serves the greater good. To do anything less is to enable the very behavior one is trying to expose.

When I wrote Operation Dark Heart, nearly 10 years had passed since the event documented in the book, and I made sure every name, event, and document that appeared in the book was properly researched and vetted. I went out of my way to find corroborating witnesses who could support my claims, who then participated in writing the book, and took the precautions that were necessary to ensure the safety of active intelligence operatives. My goal: to provide the public an understanding of corruption and to seek accountability. My publisher also cooperated fully with the proper authorities, and complied with the government’s requests to revise parts of the book.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about Bolton, whose book is a cocktail of uncorroborated claims about current national security matters, with highly-classified talking points sprinkled in to entice people to buy it. To make matters worse, Bolton is clearly driven by an ego fed by minimal professional competence and a thirst for revenge, and is abusing the “position of personal trust and responsibility” he was provided to serve the American people and hijacked it to advance his personal political interests. 

“This is unprecedented,” Attorney General William Barr explained in a recent press conference. “I don’t know if any book that’s been published so quickly while … the office holders are still in government and it’s about very current events and current leaders and current discussions and current policy issues,” Barr continued, stressing that much of the information referenced in the memoir remains “inherently classified.”

The attorney general is completely right — but the issues with Bolton’s book don’t stop there. The former national security advisor also apparently did not complete the clearance process prior to publishing his book, despite being legally obligated to do so.

Because Bolton did not follow government guidelines or obtain written approval to publish, and because his book will likely contain at least some classified information, he will likely lose in court and ultimately all profits and proceeds of the book will go to the government.

“People who come to work in the government and have access to sensitive information generally sign an agreement [consenting to a] clearance process before they can publish the book,” Barr explained, adding that authorities “don’t believe that Bolton went through that process — hasn’t completed the process — and therefore is in violation of that agreement.”

That being said, I do not fault Donald Trump for giving Bolton an opportunity to prove himself in the White House. The president has put his faith in numerous individuals who have asked for a second chance to serve their country — and most have served far more patriotically and capably than Bolton. Regrettably, Bolton lived up to his reputation as a self-serving conniver, and he was rightly dismissed from the administration. 

No matter what the Democrats and the mainstream media say about Bolton, he is not a true whistleblower. His reckless memoir is a desperate publicity stunt by a disgruntled career politician, but it’s one that could nonetheless have costly ramifications for our national security. 

Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer and President of the London Center for Policy Research.

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