Two Detail Bolton's Efforts to Punish Dissent
Friday, April 29, 2005
A former senior Bush administration official told Senate staff members yesterday that John R. Bolton, the president's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, sought to punish two State Department officials for disagreeing with him on nonproliferation issues, congressional sources said. And a former CIA chief, disputing Bolton, said the nominee had tried to fire a national intelligence officer who believed Bolton was exaggerating evidence on Cuba, they said.
John S. Wolf, who served as assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation and as President Bush's senior envoy to the Middle East until last year, and Alan Foley, who ran the CIA's weapons of mass destruction office, were two of six people who were interviewed by staff members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Bolton's nomination before the panel has been stalled by allegations that he bullied intelligence analysts, harassed colleagues and exaggerated threats posed by Cuba, Syria, North Korea and Iran.
The allegations, some of which remain unsubstantiated, caused enough concern among committee members, including several Republicans, that a vote has been delayed until May 12 to allow time to investigate. The White House has responded with a forceful lobbying and public relations campaign, and is considering ways to push through the nomination on the Senate floor even if it fails in committee.
In a news conference last night, Bush said Bolton's "blunt" style would serve him effectively in trying to tackle U.N. reform. The president would not directly comment on allegations about Bolton, except to say they had been addressed by the Senate.
On Wednesday, the committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), predicted Bolton would be approved by the committee and sent to the full Senate for a successful confirmation. The Republicans dominate the panel with 10 of the 18 seats.
But yesterday, Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), whose concerns promoted the delay in the committee's decision, told a luncheon of the Cleveland Club that he was still undecided. "I am concerned about people's interpersonal skills," he said in response to a question about Bolton.
In the past three weeks, the panel has been told about four instances in which people said Bolton sought to remove officials who disagreed with him. In his own testimony, Bolton said he lost confidence in two intelligence analysts who disagreed with his assertions about Cuba and he tried to have them reassigned. He has not fully responded to questions about the cases involving State Department officials.
Wolf, who worked directly for Bolton in the current administration and in the President George H.W. Bush administration, is no longer on close terms with his former colleague. He would not comment yesterday on the substance of his 75-minute testimony, which was described by two committee staff members.
Wolf has already said publicly that Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, targeted a young career officer who was close to former secretary of state Colin L. Powell and whom Bolton mistakenly accused of concealing a cable.
In an interview yesterday with Republican and Democratic staff members, Wolf elaborated on that incident in 2003 and told the committee for the first time that Bolton demanded disciplinary actions against other career officials who offered views that differed from his own. To protect the officials' privacy, Wolf did not name them to the committee staff or describe the nature of the views they offered.
State Department spokesman J. Adam Ereli said yesterday that the issue of Bolton's management style had already been raised and dealt with by the committee.
Foley, who until September 2003 ran the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center, known as Winpac, spoke to the committee by phone yesterday for an hour.
Committee sources said he confirmed testimony provided by Stuart Cohen, the former acting director of the National Intelligence Council, that Bolton had tried to fire the national intelligence officer for Latin America who disagreed with Bolton's assertions about an alleged bioweapons programs in Cuba.
"Foley told us that Bolton's chief of staff, Fred Fleitz, called him up and said that Bolton wanted the analyst fired," one committee investigator said. Bolton has denied that he sought to fire the officer.
The committee also interviewed Thomas Hubbard, the former ambassador to South Korea, who reiterated earlier statements that he did not approve a controversial speech Bolton gave on North Korea, as Bolton had testified in his confirmation hearing.
Also yesterday, Democrats on the committee sent Bolton two dozen additional questions to answer. Most of them are resubmissions of previous queries he did not fully address.