I just received this March 1, 2005 letter written by House Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman to Representative Christopher Shays who chairs the Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Security.
Waxman is basically blowing the whistle on the administration’s extravagant use of “sensitive but unclassified” designations on official acts to block public access to and transparency of government policymaking.
On pages 5-7, Waxman reveals that John Bolton promulgated the Niger-Uranium fiction at the State Department despite rejection of this claim by State Department and CIA intelligence analysts.
Waxman then argues that not only did Bolton and his people then try and conceal Bolton’s role in pushing the Niger-Uranium agenda by marking the material “sensitive but unclassified” and blocking it in case of a Freedom of Information Act request, the State Department actually LIED TO CONGRESS about John Bolton’s role.
I think Senator Hagel might want to reconsider his support for the Bolton nomination now. . .
Here is the excerpt from the Waxman letter:
Concealment of a State Department Official’s Role in the Niger Uranium Claim
In April 2004, the State Department used the designation “sensitive but unclassified” to conceal unclassified information about the role of John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, in the creation of a fact sheet distributed to the United Nations that falsely claimed Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.
On December 19, 2002, the State Department issued a fact sheet entitled “Illustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council.” (9) The fact sheet listed eight key areas in which the Bush Administration found fault with Iraq’s weapons declaration to the United Nations on December 7, 2002. Under the heading “Nuclear Weapons,” the fact sheet stated:
The Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger.
Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?
It was later discovered that this claim was based on fabricated documents. (10) In addition, both State Department intelligence officials and CIA officials reported that they had rejected the claim as unreliable. (11) As a result, it was unclear who within the State Department was involved in preparing the fact sheet.
On July 21, 2003, I wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking for an explanation of the role of John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, in creating the document. (12) On September 25, 2003, the State Department responded with a definitive denial: “Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John R. Bolton, did not play a role in the creation of this document.” (13)
Subsequently, however, I joined six other members of the Government Reform Committee in requesting from the State Department Inspector General a copy of an unclassified “chronology” on how the fact sheet was developed. (14) This chronology described a meeting on December 18, 2002, between Secretary Powell, Mr. Bolton, and Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs. According to this chronology, Mr. Boucher specifically asked Mr. Bolton “for help developing a response to Iraq’s Dec 7 Declaration to the United Nations Security Council that could be used with the press. According to the chronology, which is phrased in the present tense, Mr. Bolton “agrees and tasks the Bureau of Nonproliferation,” a subordinate office that reports directly to Mr. Bolton, to conduct the work.
This unclassified chronology also stated that on the next day, December 19, 2003, the Bureau of Nonproliferation “sends email with the fact sheet, ‘Fact Sheet Iraq Declaration.doc.'” to Mr. Bolton’s office (emphasis in original). A second e-mail was sent a few minutes later, and a third e-mail was sent about an hour after that. According to the chronology, each version “still includes Niger reference.” Although Mr. Bolton may not have personally drafted the document, the chronology appears to indicate that he ordered its creation and received updates on its development.
The Inspector General’s chronology was marked “sensitive but unclassified.” In addition, the letter transmitting the chronology stated that it “contains sensitive information, which may be protected from public release under the Freedom of Information Act” and requested that no “public release of this information” be made. (15) In fact, however, the chronology consisted of nothing more than a factual recitation of information on meetings, e-mails, and documents.
This is not a constructive reformer out to promote American interests in a dignified manner in the world’s most significant multilateral institution.
There are many administration jobs that John Bolton may be completely appropriate for — but the one that he has been nominated for is not on that list.
Senator Hagel — don’t you see that?
— Steve Clemons