Powell Aide Says Armitage, Bolton Clashed

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage, who last week appeared to endorse John R. Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador, had frequent battles with Bolton over his diplomatic tone, a top aide to former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said in an interview released yesterday by Senate investigators.

Larry Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff, said Armitage was furious about a provocative speech Bolton gave on North Korea in July 2003, though the State Department noted that Armitage's office had approved it. Armitage also ordered the delay of congressional testimony Bolton planned on Syria's weapons programs at the time, he added.

In an interview Friday with Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff, Wilkerson said he was "somewhat" surprised by Armitage's statement last week about Bolton "because I worked with Rich closely" at the State Department. His testimony adds to a portrait of frequent policy conflicts between the strong-willed Bolton, the undersecretary for arms control, and his bureaucratic rivals in the foreign policy and intelligence fields.

A committee vote on Bolton's nomination is planned for Thursday. Armitage told the Associated Press last week that Bolton is "eminently qualified" and "one of the smartest guys in Washington," adding that he supports "the president's choice."

Meanwhile, Democrats yesterday scaled back their request for additional documents from the State Department, keeping the focus mostly on the Syria speech. The State Department last week had provided documents relating to just five of nine requests, infuriating Democrats, and the two sides have sought to reach an agreement that would ensure a vote on Thursday.

Congressional officials also said it appeared the intelligence committee's chairman and ranking Democrat would receive a briefing today on Bolton's requests to obtain the names of Americans redacted in 10 communication intercepts. Intelligence officials would not confirm that, however.

In another interview released yesterday, Robert L. Hutchings, the former director of the National Intelligence Council, said he fought hard against approving Bolton's original planned testimony on Syria. He said it was "not totally unheard of" for intelligence analysts and policymakers to battle over draft speeches but "this case was perhaps particularly acute."

Bolton "took isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted," Hutchings said. "It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest-possible case."

Hutchings said that intelligence officials fully approved Bolton's final speech but added that such battles create "a climate of intimidation and a culture of conformity that is damaging."

Wilkerson said Armitage delayed the Syria testimony because of its content and its timing in July 2003, coming after the invasion of Iraq. "The deputy secretary intervened and would not allow the testimony to take place," he said. The testimony was eventually given in September.

Wilkerson said the North Korea speech, in which Bolton referred to leader Kim Jong Il by name more than 40 times, made Armitage "very mad." He said, "Rich was very angry -- that's to put it mildly" with Assistant Secretary James Kelly because Kelly approved the speech "in a moment of, shall we say, fatigue."

Bolton made the speech just as six-nation disarmament talks were being arranged, and the North Korean government reacted with fury and denounced Bolton. Pyongyang reacted similarly when President Bush in a news conference used similar language about Kim, who is regarded as a near deity in North Korea.

A State Department official, authorized to comment on Wilkerson's testimony, said Armitage's special assistant sent an e-mail approving of Bolton's address as a "good speech" before it was delivered.

Wilkerson said that after the North Korea speech, Armitage decided that either he or Wilkerson needed to personally approve any of Bolton's future public statements.

Wilkerson said, "There was friction off and on, tension off and on, between every bureau in the State Department." For example, he said the East Asian bureau "didn't like the fact that John sanctioned China 62 times in four years" for weapons proliferation, as the administration was enlisting China to help on North Korea.

Armitage was the decision-maker for 40 of those cases, the State Department official said, adding that it was "flatly incorrect" to suggest Bolton could sanction China on his own.

"I'm not a fan of sanctions, period," Wilkerson said. He said he also objected to Bolton's push to win bilateral agreements, known as Article 98 agreements, from countries exempting U.S. military personnel from the International Criminal Court.

"When people ignore diplomacy . . . in order to push their pet rocks in other areas, it bothers me," Wilkerson said, adding that he used to wonder how much damage was being done to the country's international relations whenever Bolton announced another agreement.

Wilkerson said he disapproved of Bolton's role in seeking the reassignment of an intelligence officer, but added: "There were a number of analysts at the CIA I would love to have relieved."


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