Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

John Bolton: A Rook in the Plame Scandal

In my last essay, I noted that the members of the Bush administration that belonged to the Office of the Vice President and the White House Iraq Group could be viewed as players on a chess board. Karl Rove, "Scooter" Libby, and VP Dick Cheney are the most obvious pieces on the board, but they are not the only ones we should be watching. I thought that today, we might look at John Bolton.

It's hard to keep track of all of the players, if we reply exclusively upon the corporate media. There are times those sources provide contradictory, and even inaccurate, information. More, as I have mentioned several times since April, the OVP/WHIG has been engaged in a disinformation/smear campaign that can cause confusion for the general public. Let's look at just one example.

One of the best journalists in the corporate media, in terms of the Plame scandal, is MSNBC's David Shuster. His reports on Hardball and Countdown have provided the public with some of the most accurate information on the Plame scandal. Because of the hard-hitting nature of his reporting, he has become one of the least favorite reporters among Dick Cheney's circle of friends. As a result, the republican jackals try to discredit our friend David.

Can we combine these two issues? Let's consider the example of David's reporting on July 21, 2005 on the nomination of Mr. Bolton to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations. Even in the context of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, Bolton was noted for having a highly toxic personality that is ill-suited for that position. But Shuster wasn't focused on personalities; he reported that John Bolton had been questioned about his connection to the infamous State Department memo that was sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell on Air Force 1 in July, '03.

This was significant, because Bolton had not listed this on the questionnaire he had filled out for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Shortly after Shuster's report was aired, an official from the Rice State Department denied it. Senator Joseph Biden wrote to Rice, requesting that she encourage Mr. Bolton to provide an explanation.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters, "Mr. Bolton, as part of the nomination process, supplied an answer to the question" about if he had been interviewed as part of any investigation. "Mr. Bolton, in his response on the written paperwork, was to say 'no.' And that answer is truthful then and it remains the case now."

The corporate media failed to nail the truth down. But the internet journalists I admire sure as heck did. Steven Clemons, of The Washington Note, noted on 7-25-05 that while CNN hadn't responded to TWN questions on the White House denial, MSNBC reported to TWN that their source on Bolton's being questioned was "unimpeachable."

Arianna Huffington had a report ("Plamegate: The John Bolton Connection") that noted Bolton's former chief of staff, Fred Fleitz, was "at least one of the sources" of the information on Valerie Plame that "flowed through the Bush administration..." She also noted that Bolton had a history of providing information to Judith Miller.

On July 29, 2005, Fox News reported that a "corrected version" of the SFRC questionnaire had been sent to Capitol Hill. Spokesperson Sean McCormick noted that Bolton had indeed answered it "truthfully and accurately" the first time. "Mr. Bolton certainly wishes he hadn't had to resubmit the form but he would characterize it as an honest lapse in memory." Hmmm, that sounds a lot like Karl Rove explaining why his truthful and accurate story to the Plame grand jury had to be updated. Both Rove and Libby have experienced those exact same "honest lapse in memory" on the details of their involvement in the scandal.

I had mentioned in my last essay that Woodward & Bernstein had experienced a problem in reporting on the Watergate scandal, which resulted in people like Spiro Agnew and Bob Dole complaining that the Washington Post had violated the moral laws of the universe. I thought it would be interesting to see what Mr. Woodward had reported about John Bolton in his two pep-rally books about the Bush administration, "Bush At War" and "Plan of Attack." I was shocked to find that in a combined total of 843 pages, Woodward only mentioned Bolton once.

On page 160 of "Bush At War," he wrote, "John R. Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was dealing with the Uzbeks." Woodward noted that VP Cheney used this information as "a shot at Powell," in part of the larger power struggle going on within the White House. It didn't seem like a lot of information from Bob Woodward, but then again, he came up in the Plame investigation for being a little less than truthful and accurate in his reporting on the Plame scandal. Probably one of those honest lapse in memory we hear so much about these days.

Next, I thought we should look to Carl Bernstein, who unlike Woodward seems a decent and honorable man. I looked at his recent article "Senate Hearings on Bush, Now," from Vanity Fair. He wrote, "The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, to Karl Rove, to Michael Chertoff, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet, to Paul Wolfowitz, to Andrew Card (and a dozen others), is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy -- used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed."

Bernstein advocates having the Senate ask Colin Powell tough questions about how this country was brought to war in Iraq. Carl notes that there was friction between VP Cheney & Co., and Powell and his friends Dick Armitage and Larry Wilkerson.

Patrick Buchanan knows a thing or two about using the power of the White House to manipulate the media. I looked in his book "Where the Right went Wrong" to see what he had to say about Bolton. He lists Bolton as one of "a clique of foreign policy specialists, academics, and writers who see U.S. and Israeli interests as identical." He notes that Bolton was one of the people signing the PNAC letter to President Clinton urging him to make the overthrow of Saddam the center of US foreign policy. Buchanan writes that Bolton, along with Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith and Wurmser helped VP Cheney build the case for invading Iraq; in fact, he quotes a foreign paper that told that Bolton told Israeli officials he had "no doubts" the US was preparing to invade Iraq in February, 2003. (See pages 44-46) Seymour Hersch also noted on page 346 of "Chain of Command" that Israeli intelligence was using Bolton to funnel information on Iranian weapons programs to the White House.

The WHIG carried out the VP's media operations. But Dick Cheney and his friend Donald Rumsfeld also had intelligence operations. The best known was the Office of Special Plans, which operated out of the Pentagon. But, according to Joseph Wilson's book (page 432), John Bolton ran a closely related operation while he worked at the State Department. How might this relate to the Plame scandal?

In "Chain of Command," Seymour Hersch writes about the OSP bypassing the normal checks and balances of the intelligence community. He describes how Colin Powell had attempted to provide daily intelligence briefs from the more structured Bureau of Intelligence & Research (INR) for people including Bolton. Greg Thielmann provided the daily briefings for Bolton; however, Thielmann found that Bolton "seemed troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear." Soon, Thielmann was refused entry to Bolton's morning staff meetings, because "the Undersecretary wants to keep this in the family."

Bolton had demanded sensitive intelligence not normally provided to people in his position. This is because the CIA and INR usually would analyze the "raw intelligence," and provide it in proper context for others. Bolton was demanding the raw intelligence.

An example of the confusion that can result when raw intelligence is taken out of context would be found in VP Dick Cheney seeing a report that claimed Iraq had attempted to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger. Cheney brought this topic up during one of his daily CIA briefings. Two days later, the CI briefer informed him there was nothing to the report. Cheney, according to Hersch, requested the Agency look into the report further.

What kinds of things were so sensitive that Mr. Bolton would not want Mr. Thielmann to know about them? What “family secrets” was he intent on keeping hidden? One possibility is found in James Moore’s October 21, 2005 article from TomPaine.Common sense, “Fitzgerald’s Historic Opportunity,” in which he writes that “Fitzgerald has reportedly asked for a copy of the Italian government’s investigation into the break-in of the Niger embassy in Rome and the source of the forged documents.” Moore tells of how the notorious Niger forgeries turned up after a December 2001 meeting in Rome of Michael Ledeen, Larry Franklin, Harold Rhodes and Niccolo Pollari, the head of Italy’s intelligence agency. This meeting, and indeed this group of people, is at the nexus of the Niger documents and the neocon/AIPAC spy scandals, both closely related to the Plame scandal.

We know from “The Politics of Truth” that when the State Department produced a “fact sheet” in late 2002, to outline concerns about WMD programs in Iraq, that Bolton slipped in a reference to the Niger yellow cake. Another official caught the reference, and knowing that it was not considered true, removed it from the document. In March, 2005, Rep. Henry Waxman requested that the chairman of a House subcommittee on national security examine why Bolton’s role in putting the bogus Niger-Iraqi “connection” into the State Department fact sheet, and why Bolton’s role had been concealed.

A short time after Bolton pushed to have the yellow cake lies included in the fact sheet, President Bush delivered his infamous “16 words” in his State of the Union address. When the US claims were questioned in the international community, Colin Powell was told to deliver a speech at the UN similar to UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson’s during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. He was pressured by, among others, VP Cheney and Scooter Libby to include information he did not believe.

In “Plan of Attack,” Woodward details how, in researching the speech, Powell went to CI headquarters on Saturday, February 1, 2003. He found information that troubled him. The next day, he convinced his friend Dick Armitage to go to the Agency to review it with him. Powell did not mention the Niger yellow cake lies in his UN address.

After Wilson exposed the OVP/WHIG in his NY Times op-ed, Bolton began saying that WMD wasn’t “really the issue” that brought the US to war in Iraq. In his September 14, 2003 op-ed in the San Jose Mercury Times, Wilson exposed Bolton for this twisting of fact.

Still, by and large, Bolton and the others who were responsible for pushing the forged Niger documents, and lying to the American people about the reasons this country invaded Iraq, have been rewarded. Bolton is surely the last man in the United States who should be representing our nation in the United Nations.

I think that David Shuster would do well to give the American public an update on Mr. Bolton’s role in all of this. He is one of the few journalists who is willing to expose the extent the OVP was involved in this scandal. In the mean time, the public does well to keep up to date on the various internet sites that report on the Plame, the Niger forgeries, and the neocon/AIPAC spy scandals.