Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and Ranking Member Joseph Biden both sought from the administration the names, contextual information, and, if possible, the unedited actual intercept material that John Bolton reviewed during his tenure as Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control.
Lugar’s request was rebuffed by the White House, but thus far he seems not to have made any public comment about the fact that his evidence requests regarding John Bolton were not complied with.
In addition, it turns out that there is significant confusion about whether Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden did in fact show the intercept material to Senators Roberts and Rockefeller — as previously reported.
TWN was very surprised to learn from two sources that the intercept material was not provided to the Senators — but that a two hour long briefing and discussion was had that did reveal some contextual information, dates of the relevant intercepts — but did NOT provide any of the names of U.S. officials that Bolton had requested the National Security Agency to provide him.
General Hayden apparently has been quite concerned that had he provided the actual intercept material to the Senators in either the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the content would be “leaked” to the media.
On May 13, Senator Biden wrote to John Negroponte making clear that the Foreign Relations Committee had jurisdiction in the Bolton nomination and that the failure of the administration to comply with the Committee’s request had impeded the Bolton investigation.
In Biden’s letter, it is clear that the Senator does believe that Hayden provided the ‘edited’ (names redacted) transcripts to Rockefeller and Roberts. He writes:
I have been told (although I have not yet been informed officially) that you provided the intercepts, but not the U.S. person identities, to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I trust that the Intelligence Committee will, in turn, provide that information to the Committee on Foreign Relations, or at least to Chairman Lugar and me, pursuant to its responsibilities under Senate Resolution 400 (94th Congress). I join with Chairman Lugar, however, in the belief that we need to be informed of the U.S. person identities as well, in order to properly fulfill our duty to the full Senate.
Here is the Biden letter to Negroponte.
What is clear is that as of today, Friday, the 20th of May, Senators Biden and Lugar have not received any official word or statement from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence or any information related to the NSA intercepts from the administration.
What Biden did get back from National Intelligence Director was a rather rude, “insulting” note instructing Biden to go the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — NOT NEGROPONTE — for any information on the intercepts.
Does Negroponte really have such a misinformed view of government bureacracy that one Senate Committee would subordinate its Constitutional responsibilities and prerogatives to another Committee. There are really important issues of precedence at play here — and what Negroponte seems to be asserting is that he can play one Senate Committee off of another when it comes to the intelligence activities of diplomats engaged in the blurry world of intelligence and foreign policy.
Here is the Negroponte letter.
Because of scheduling challenges and the Senate recess, General Hayden was not able to brief Senators Roberts and Rockefeller until late in the afternoon of May 10. His presentation was in great detail, lasting just over two hours, and — we believe — met the requirements of the SSCI. It is our understanding that the SSCI leadership has, or will shortly, inform the leadershiop of the Foreign Relations Committee of the results of this session.
Someone please inform John Negroponte that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has no jurisdiction when it comes to Foreign Relations Committee action in the investigation, discourse, and confirmation reports on diplomatic nominees.
Whether or not Negroponte satisfied the needs of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is irrelevant to the question of whether the evidence requests by the Foreign Relations Committee of the “Bush Administration” were met.
The Foreign Relations Committee should not have to work out separate deals with the State Department, the Department of Defense, the CIA, or other branches of government when conducting an investigation. It is acting on behalf of the United States Senate — as a whole.
Likewise, administration departments — even the Directorate of National Intelligence — are part of the Executive Branch of government which is expected to comply when the United States Senate makes evidence requests of it in the constitutionally mandated roles and responsibilities that the Senate has.
Negroponte, after just starting in his job, is engaged in dangerous brinksmanship with the Congress over information and evidence compliance.
He is already losing the good will of many who would otherwise have been predisposed to be supportive of him by failing to construct some method to be helpful to Senators Lugar and Biden (as well as Chris Dodd who started the process of requesting the NSA intercepts).
There is more cooking on the NSA intercepts — including a very troubling potential revelation, still just a rumor from a single source — that I plan to write about later.
— Steve Clemons