Monday, May 09, 2005

Armitage Had Bolton on Tight Leash

The New York Times is set to report on Tuesday that former State Department second-in-command Richard Armitage (whose "endorsement" of Bolton I have questioned) "ordered two years ago that [John] Bolton be blocked from delivering speeches and testimony unless they were personally approved by Mr. Armitage." The article, by Douglas Jehl, is available on the Times website here.

Jehl quotes Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, who met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigators last week, as saying that Powell and Armitage became so angered by Bolton's indelicate remarks on various issues that "the deputy made a decision, and communicated that decision to me, that John Bolton would not give any testimony, nor would he give any speech, that wasn't cleared first by Rich [Armitage]." This quote, Jehl notes, is from a transcript of Wilkerson's meeting with committee staff.

Wilkerson told Jehl on Monday via email that "if anything, [the restrictions on Bolton] got more stringent" over the course of Bush's first term, and "No one else was subjected to these tight restrictions." Wilkerson was one of approximately thirty people interviewed over the last three weeks by Republican and Democratic staff of the Foreign Relations Committee to provide testimony on Mr. Bolton's temperament and his use/abuse of intelligence while serving as Undersecretary of State.

Jehl: "Mr. Wilkerson also disputed one account that had been provided by Mr. Bolton, and said that it was Mr. Armitage, and not Mr. Bolton, who decided in the summer of 2003 to postpone Congressional testimony that Mr. Bolton had planned to give on Syria and that had touched off significant opposition from American intelligence agencies. Mr. Wilkerson also provided a new account of the reaction within the State Department to a speech that Mr. Bolton delivered on North Korea in the summer of 2003, saying that the speech had not been fully vetted and that Mr. Armitage had become 'very angry - that's to put it mildly' - at an assistant secretary of state who signed off on Mr. Bolton's language."

The Times report also features some comments from Robert Hutchings, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Hutchings testified to committee staff about a heated debate between Bolton and intelligence analysts over language Bolton wanted to include in a 2003 speech concerning Syria's weapons of mass destruction programs. Hutchings told investigators "I wouldn't say he was making up facts. Let's say that he took isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted. It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest-possible case."

Senator Lugar said this weekend that he thought it would be a 10-8 vote in the committee on Thursday to confirm Mr. Bolton to be UN Ambassador. But senators are only now getting the opportunity to wade through the transcripts of the thirty interviews conducted recently, and there is clearly much relevant information contained in those reams of paper.

[Update: The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has filed a similar story to Jehl's, here. -- 11:16 p.m.]


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