Official: Bolton hyped strength of Cuba, Syria

Campaign News | Sunday, 8 May 2005

Pressure grows on Bush UN nominee

WASHINGTON May 7 - John R. Bolton, nominated to be U.N. ambassador, vastly overrated the military might of Syria and Cuba and had to be talked into toning down his assessments, a former senior intelligence official told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff Friday.

Robert L. Hutchings, who was responsible for coordinating American intelligence assessments in 2003, told the committee staff that he felt Bolton was intent on drawing conclusions in public speeches that were "politicized" and exceeded U.S. intelligence on both countries, said a committee source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In another interview, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, questioned Bolton's leadership skills and disputed the view that the undersecretary of state was brilliant, committee sources told The Associated Press.

Wilkerson told committee aides that Powell - who has not endorsed Bolton for the U.N. job - would "go down to the bowels of the building" to try to boost the morale of analysts who had clashed with Bolton. Bolton has been accused of berating subordinates who disagreed with his views.

Melody Townsel, a Dallas public-relations consultant who called Bolton "pathological" in a letter to the committee last month, softened her criticism in an April 26 interview with the committee.

A transcript of her interview, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, described Bolton as pounding on her Moscow hotel door 11 years ago when they both worked for private companies.

"No matter where I went in this hotel, if he saw me (he) began to approach me rapidly," she told the committee. "If I saw him in the breakfast bar, he would make a beeline for me."

Previously, she said Bolton had chased her through the hotel's halls. But now, Townsel said "chasing may not be the best word" although "I definitely felt chased."

A former CIA official, John E. McLaughlin, told the committee last week that Bolton's efforts to have a top CIA analyst removed from his post because of a disagreement with Bolton was the only time he had ever heard of such a request coming from a policy-maker in his 32 years with the spy agency, The New York Times reported.

Bolton and the analyst were at odds over a Bolton speech the analyst thought overstated the extent of weapons programs in Cuba. "I had a strong negative reaction to the suggestion about moving him," McLaughlin told the committee, according to a transcript obtained by the Times.

Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told the committee Friday that he - not Bolton - had tried to get the CIA analyst transferred. He said Pentagon, CIA and State Department officials agreed the analyst's work was substandard.

The interviews coincided with the State Department's delivery of what one official said was a voluminous batch of documents sought by committee Democrats, who hope to kill Bolton's nomination.

The panel's senior Democrat, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, warned this week that, if the department failed to provide the requested material, he might try to delay a committee vote on Bolton set for next Thursday.

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said the department was "cooperating fully" with the committee, but did not say whether the Democrats would get everything they wanted.

Affirming that he had called Bolton an "abysmal choice" for the U.N. post, Wilkerson said Bolton went so far in his speeches that he was ordered to clear them with him or the office of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

The former Powell aide said Bolton was too aggressive in pushing sanctions against Chinese companies for spreading weapons technology and "overstepped the bounds" in the way he tried to block a third term for Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.,1413,200~20954~2856596,00.html

Bolton being blocked for distorting evidene on Cuba

WASHINGTON, 3 May 2005 - The real reason why John Bolton, President George W. Bush’s appointee as US ambassador to the United Nations, is intensely disliked by State Department officials has nothing to do with the way he treats his subordinates, but rather with the way he distorts intelligence information for his political motives, a State Department official told Arab News yesterday, while expressing disappointment that the US media has paid little attention to this, the real issue.

This news corroborated what former intelligence officials have reported, that Bolton repeatedly clashed with American intelligence officials in 2002 and 2003 as he sought to deliver warnings about Syrian and Cuban efforts to acquire unconventional weapons which the CIA and other experts rejected as exaggerated.

Impartiality of US intelligence judgments remains a highly charged issue because of assertions by some lawmakers that analysts were pressured to produce assessments on Iraq that supported Bush’s case for war but turned out to be wrong.

Disagreement over Cuba’s and Syria’s alleged biological warfare capabilities and allegations that inappropriate pressure was applied to intelligence officers is another example of his use of distortion of intelligence for his political aims, said the State Department official, who said the CIA made it clear to Bolton that they did not have adequate information for him to make such accusations, and were dismayed when Bolton disregarded their advice and spoke about the countries’ alleged biological warfare capabilities.

It has also become known that congressional investigators are probing a new allegation that President Bush’s choice for UN ambassador once visited CIA headquarters to demand the removal of a top intelligence analyst who disagreed with him on Cuba’s biological warfare capabilities.

Retired diplomats say that Bolton did try to get the analyst removed, who was the Latin America expert on the National Intelligence Council.

The congressional investigators were told that Otto Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Bolton demanded that the national intelligence officer be removed from his position during separate visits they made to CIA headquarters in 2002, the US officials said. Instead, the officer was promoted.

Bolton repeated and strengthened previous allegations about Cuba’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program, and told Congress in written testimony that the island “remains a terrorist and (biological weapons) threat to the United States.”

Such prolonged and heated disputes over Bolton’s remarks were unusual within government and that those disputes reflected what one former senior official called a pattern in which Bolton sought to push his public assertions beyond the views endorsed by intelligence agencies.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also reviewing reports involving Syria as part of its inquiries relating to Bolton’s nomination.

Declassified e-mail messages from 2002 that were provided to the committee by the State Department allude to one previously unknown episode.

One message, dated April 30, 2002, and sent by a senior State Department intelligence official, dismissed as “a stretch” language about a possible Syrian nuclear program that had been spelled out in a draft speech circulated by Bolton’s aides for approval. In the speech itself, delivered five days later, Bolton made no reference to a Syrian nuclear program.

Until now, Senate Democrats leading the opposition to Bolton’s nomination have focused mostly on a 2002 dispute related to Cuba, in which Bolton has acknowledged seeking the transfer of two intelligence officials with whom he had differed. But Congressional staffers have told reporters of the clashes over Syria as “an example,...not of Bolton’s abusing people, but of trying to exaggerate the intelligence to fit his policy views.”

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