Saturday, May 07, 2005

Dems May Seek Another Bolton Delay

The LA Times' Paul Richter reports on Saturday that Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may seek further delays before a final vote on the confirmation of John Bolton. While yet more documents were sent from the State Department to the committee on Friday, Democratic aides reported that the materials did not include information "they had requested on how Bolton had used intelligence information in his official speeches. Biden was 'rather unhappy' that Democrats were being treated in a 'cavalier manner,' spokesman Norm Kurz said."

On Friday, committee staff interviewed Larry Wilkerson, Powell's former chief of staff, who reportedly "reiterated and amplified" his concerns about Bolton's ability to listen and function effectively as UN Ambassador. Interviews were also conducted Friday with Robert Hutchings, former chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state.

Richter notes that the question of the ten NSA intercepts is still unsettled, and that the Senate Intelligence Committee had not received the transcripts of the intercepts as of Friday afternoon. A Democratic Intelligence Committee aide told Richter "We are officially frustrated. We have been unable to get access to these NSA intercepts, any information related to these NSA intercepts, and have been unable to get the DNI's office to tell us when or how we may get access to these things."

This could turn into the major issue early next week leading up to Thursday's meeting on the nomination. If the intercepts have not yet been made available, committee Democrats will have a clear basis for requesting another delay in the process. The information they seek regarding the use of intelligence in speeches concerning Syria and Sudan may be tangential, but the NSA intercepts are a key element.

In other Bolton-news this morning, the New York Times says that former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin told the Foreign Relations Committee on April 29 that Bolton's attempts to remove Fulton Armstrong, a CIA analyst, from his post was "the only time" in his 32 years at CIA when a policymaker asked him to transfer an analyst. Armstrong had disagreed with language Bolton wanted to use in a speech concerning Cuban biowarfare programs.

Douglas Jehl quotes a transcript of McLaughlin's interview with the Foreign Relations Committee:

"It's perfectly all right for a policy maker to express disagreement with an N.I.O. or an analyst, and it's perfectly all right for them to challenge such an individual vigorously, challenge their work vigorously. But I think it's different to then request, because of the disagreement, that the person be transferred. And - unless there is malfeasance involved here, and in this case, I had a high regard for the individual's work - therefore, I had a strong negative reaction to the suggestion about moving him."

McLaughlin said that he had a "strong reaction" to the request from Bolton that Armstrong be transferred; he told the Committee he responded to Armstrong's supervisor by saying "Well, we're not going to do that, absolutely not. No way. End of story, or words to that effect."

Steve Clemons shares the view I expressed yesterday, that the "endorsement" of Richard Armitage was very far from "unqualified," and left quite a lot of room for interpretation.


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