What role did John Bolton play in the Bush administration's
efforts to manufacture the intelligence needed to justify the invasion of Iraq?
As it turns out, a hidden but important role. Remember the "yellowcake from
Briefly reported last week in Steve Clemons' The
Washington Note was that a Congressional subcommittee, citing a State Department
inspector general's report, found that Bolton ordered and received updates on
the notorious "Fact Sheet" of Dec. 19, 2002, that claimed Iraq had been trying
to procure uranium "yellowcake" from Niger. In other words, John Bolton played
a key role in ordering that discredited intelligence be used to support the
president's case for war, three months before the attack on Iraq.
A Plan to Fix the Facts
TomPaine.com readers, unlike those malnourished
by "mainstream media," were among the first to
learn of the leaked document published by the London Sunday Times
on May 1, in which the head of British intelligence told Prime Minister Tony
Blair that President George W. Bush had decided to make war on Iraq. The date,
you will remember, was July 23, 2002 – long before the president consulted Congress,
and long before any intelligence was cooked up to "justify" such a decision.
The official minutes of that meeting show that the U.K. intelligence chief,
Richard Dearlove, just back from consultations in Washington with then-CIA director
George Tenet and other officials, announced matter-of-factly that the attack
on Iraq is to be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as confirming that
Bush had decided on war, but interjects ruefully that the case for WMD was "thin."
Not a problem, says Dearlove: "Intelligence and facts were being fixed around
But how does this kind of "fixing" play out? Insights
leap out of recently declassified e-mail messages from the office of Undersecretary
of State John Bolton, archdeacon of politicization. I was particularly struck
to learn from the Washington Post that Bolton's principal aide and chief
enforcer, Frederick Fleitz, is actually a CIA analyst on loan to Bolton. In
this light, his behavior in trying to cook intelligence to the recipe of high
policy is even more inexcusable. CIA analysts, particularly those on detail
to policy departments, have no business playing the enforcer of policy judgments,
have no business conjuring up "intelligence around the policy."
Fleitz must have flunked Ethics and Intelligence Analysis 101. Or perhaps the
CIA does not offer the course any more. This is the same Fleitz who "explained"
to State Department intelligence analyst Christian Westermann that it was "a
political judgment as to how to interpret this data [on Cuba's biological weapons
program] and the I.C. [intelligence community] should do as we asked."
E-mails released more recently show Fleitz acting as stalking horse for Bolton
to make sure the intelligence fit the policies Bolton was pushing. Fleitz is
furious that State Department intelligence experts feel it their duty to demur
on Bolton/Fleitz judgments regarding the efficacy of missile export controls
against China. Fleitz, whose home office at CIA is the one which gave us "high
confidence" judgments on the presence of WMD in Iraq, apparently ordered up
analysis from CIA to suit his boss' strongly held judgment that the controls
on exports to China were deficient.
Not surprisingly, Bolton liked the analysis that was served up by Fleitz' CIA
colleagues and told him to pass it to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
But State's intelligence analysts had the temerity to do their job, and attached
a cover memo taking the opposite position, viewing the export controls positively.
Questioned on this by Senate staffers last week, Fleitz admitted that his experience
in his CIA home office gave him a personal stake in how the analysis was treated.
This is doubly inappropriate.
The idea of seconding intelligence analysts to policy departments dates back
almost three decades to a time when many analysts found themselves working in
a vacuum, blissfully unaware of policymakers' interests and needs. The analysts'
(otherwise laudable) search for relevance has now swung the pendulum too far
in the other direction, with folks like Fleitz "cherry-picked" by folks like
Bolton to "support" policy in wholly inappropriate ways. That top CIA officials
allow the Boltons of this administration to get away with that shows CIA managers
to be weak, witting, and willing accomplices in this corruption of the intelligence
Enter the Yellowcake
The Fleitz technique is one way to Boltonize intelligence,
but there are other ways to counter attempts by intelligence analysts to "tell
it like it is," when "like it is" needs to be "fixed" around a policy. Just
go around the analysts.
An instructive example of this can be seen by harking back to a key juncture
in the saga on Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction," in which Bolton achieved
his aims by simply cutting State Department intelligence analysts out of the
Painful as it is to bring up the embarrassing canard about Iraq seeking uranium
in Niger, that sad chapter illustrates how Bolton operates when he knows he
cannot bully intelligence community analysts to come up with the desired "analysis."
Before President Bush's key speech on Oct. 7, 2002, setting the stage for Congress'
vote on the war three days later, then-CIA director Tenet personally intervened
to prevent the president from using spurious "intelligence" on the alleged attempts
to acquire "yellowcake" (slightly enriched uranium) from Africa.
Just two months later, however, this canard reappeared in an official State
Department "Fact Sheet" dated Dec. 19, debunking Baghdad's submission to the
UN Security Council accounting for Iraqi weapons programs. The "Fact Sheet"
directly cited the "yellowcake" deal as proof that Saddam Hussein was lying
to the United States about his nuclear program (which had been "reconstituted"
only in the rhetoric of Bolton's patron, Dick Cheney).
Small problem: State's intelligence analysts had long shared CIA's skepticism
about that report. Indeed, in the National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1,
2002, they had branded it "dubious."
What accounts for new life being injected into this canard? We learned some
time ago from a former senior Bush State Department official that the impetus
came from Bolton's office. And now we have documentary proof, thanks to a State
Department Inspector General investigation, the results of which were shared
with a congressional subcommittee. In sum, when Bolton realized that the Iraq-Niger
report itself left most analysts holding their noses (even before it was established
that it was based on crude forgeries), his office inserted the bogus story into
the official State Department "Fact Sheet" without clearing it with the department's
own intelligence analysts. Easy.
This strongly suggests that it was also no accident that a month later the
yellowcake fable found its way into the president's State of the Union address.
Bolton's rogue operation ensured the subsequent embarrassment of one and all
when the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei,
declared the reports "not authentic," forcing both White House officials and
George Tenet to apologize.
Bolton kept his head down during all this, doing all he could to disguise his
involvement in the "Fact Sheet" misadventure. Indeed, the House Committee on
Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security found that "the State
Department deliberately concealed unclassified information about the role of
John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, in the creation of a
fact sheet that falsely claimed that Iraq sought uranium from Niger."
In a letter of Sept. 25, 2003, State told the subcommittee that "Bolton did
not play a role in the creation of this document." However, subcommittee investigators
subsequently obtained access to a State Department inspector general report
that showed that Bolton not only ordered that the fact sheet be created, but
also received updates on its development.
Later, Bolton fell back on his default modus operandi: the by-now-familiar
attempts to fire for their insolence analysts, managers, senior UN officials
– it doesn't matter. Late last year, Bolton led a one-man, one-country vendetta
aimed at preventing the well-respected ElBaradei from getting another term as
director of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency. That quixotic campaign
was unprecedented in its vindictiveness and won the U.S. no friends.
And this is the president's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations. Remarkable.
This article reprinted courtesy of TomPaine.com.