Bill Richardson’s Role in the Bolton NSA Transcripts Story


A completely unanticipated development in the NSA intercepts issue was that unnamed senior level sources who are cleared but refuse to say much more indicated that NM Governor Bill Richardson may be part of the package of NSA intercepts interest exhibited by John Bolton.
This may or may not be true. It seems to me to be a simple, binary question. Bolton requested names of U.S. officials in ten sets of intercepts requested and perused by Bolton. Either Richardson was part of the mix, or not. NSA should find a way to make that clear.
Part of the problem with the NSA intercepts is that the NSA is NOT SUPPOSED to eavesdrop on domestic calls and electronic transmissions. If Bill Richardson was in fact eavesdropped on by the NSA, then this provides some concern that the NSA was monitoring Richardson’s conversations with Colin Powell about the North Korea diplomatic effort. Everyone I know who has connections to the NSA world tells me that this would be extraordinary and would shatter trust in the NSA’s methods and objectives.
On another front, some were speculating that Bolton’s real target of interest was American Envoy for Negotiations with North Korea Jack Pritchard. There seem to have been a number of other officials who interested him as well. The issue with Pritchard, however, is that Bolton was requesting names of officials that were scrubbed out in intercept transcripts. It would have been clear to Bolton or anyone else reading the NSA reports who the official was if it was Pritchard — so the request for a name seems either redundant or silly.
Let’s presume that Bolton was not asking for the “obvious” then. It then seems reasonable to assume that if Bolton was asking for the identities of U.S. officials whose names had been scrubbed by the NSA, that what he was really interested in investigating were foreign conversations, taking place abroad, that referred to U.S. officials or conversations with U.S. officials.
A well-placed source tells me that when the NSA intercepts are read in full, they will demonstrate something unsurprising to those familiar with Bolton’s record. The source says that what will be clear is an ongoing-pattern of very poor judgment by John Bolton who was driven by “personal vanity” and “blustery crusades” while “delinquent in his real, assigned responsibilities within his portfolio.”
Again, these questions are easily resolved. Bolton either misused intelligence for personal or reckless purposes — or he did nothing about which the Senate or the American public should be concerned.
It’s a yes or no proposition. Binary.
The NSA and Condoleeza Rice’s State Department can solve much of this debate about Bolton quickly. It doesn’t remove the many arenas of concern about him — but the question of being a “loose cannon” and of working to undermine American national security because of his behavioral lapses and intemperate vindictiveness against fellow colleagues and their diplomatic efforts will be either enhanced or knocked down a notch by what appears in the transcripts.
Just for those interested, this item ran in the New York Times on January 11, 2003:

“[Democrat, New Mexico] Gov. Bill Richardson, concluding three days of unofficial talks with two North Korean envoys, said today that the discussions had ‘eased tensions a bit’ between North Korea and the United States.
Speaking just hours after a North Korean diplomat in China warned that his country might resume missile tests, Mr. Richardson called on the Bush administration to engage in its own direct talks with the North. ‘I think what now needs to happen is that the governments need to talk to each other,’ Mr. Richardson said.” The Administration declined.

More later on the intercepts.
— Steve Clemons