Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld may not have been the only person bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have his own robust, independent source for national security intelligence.
John Bolton too felt constantly constrained by and at war with “intelligence-packagers” at the Department of State and CIA. He felt that these intelligence analysts and their estimates were being colored politically — and were usually softer-edged assessments than the raw intelligence called for.
Here is the $450 billion question: How did John Bolton know that these intelligence estimates were soft? How did he so frequently have information and material that the State Department INR analysts and CIA analysts had discounted or had not allowed to work through bureaucratic channels?
Several highly-placed officers have “speculated” that John Bolton had several sources for some of this “bad intel” over which he was beating up, harrassing, and seeking termination of so many intelligence analysts.
Notes of Christian Westermann’s interview with Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff allude to such capacity in Bolton’s office, but others have confirmed in interviews with TWN that Bolton may have had some kind of “intelligence terminal” based in his office.
As I understand it, one of these terminals issues out short reports of highly classified, raw, unfiltered intelligence that has not been analyzed, placed in any kind of context, or otherwise tested for veracity or significance. Every person with whom I have spoken about such terminals said that they are incredibly dangerous, as they are constantly spewing out “sky is falling types of material” that must be analyzed. At the State Department, INR is responsible for sorting out the serious from the sensational, as well as for establishing context and packaging the intelligence in useable form.
But some speculate that Bolton had his own terminal — very rare in government — and rather than fully depending on either State or CIA assessments began to generate his own intelligence estimates, views, fact sheets, and materials for his speeches and positions.
This is unbelievably reckless and dangerous and is potentially among the very worst of abuses that John Bolton may have engaged in.
Alternatively, others believe that Bolton had access to someone at the CIA who was feeding him such raw or unfiltered intelligence. This is one of the possibilities raised in the excellent article by Dafna Linzer in today’s Washington Post.
Here are the key excerpts about Bolton’s intelligence misbehavior:
But testimony gathered by the Senate panel in preparation for Bolton’s confirmation hearings has also detailed a private channel to the CIA and how he sought to stifle career analysts from voicing dissent about the intelligence he was receiving. Bolton’s chief of staff, Frederick Fleitz, is on loan to Bolton from the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center, known as WINPAC. Fleitz told Senate staff members during an April 7 interview that he goes back to the agency’s headquarters from time to time and reports to supervisors there and to Bolton.
Neil Silver, who directs the Office for Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, told Senate staff members earlier this month that his office was surprised when a CIA analysis on “China’s commitment to proliferation” showed up for Bolton in 2002 without a request filed through his office. Silver assumed that Fleitz had heard about the analysis through associates at the CIA because its conclusions had not been agreed to within the intelligence community. Silver’s office, which is supposed to provide policymakers with a complete picture of intelligence that could affect directives, attached an alternative view for Bolton to see.
That decision brought immediate complaints from Fleitz, who told Silver that it was “unprofessional” to circulate the dissent.
Thomas Fingar, who runs the State Department’s intelligence bureau, which is the official liaison between the department and the rest of the intelligence community, told the Senate committee on April 8 that Fleitz had asked that a clearance request for controversial intelligence on Cuba be made through WINPAC.
Often those requests go through the National Intelligence Council (NIC), but it became public during last week’s hearings that Bolton had clashed with the council officer in charge of Latin America.
Bolton came up against resistance from Fingar’s bureau and, later, from the national intelligence officer on Latin America over a speech he gave in May 2002 suggesting that Cuba had a biological weapons program.
The former national intelligence officer told the committee that he received an abusive e-mail from Fleitz after he had raised objections with the Senate staff about the Cuba speech. The former officer and his boss then, Stuart Cohen, who ran the NIC in 2002, said Bolton tried to get the officer removed from his job after the incident.
Ford, who ran the State Department’s intelligence bureau before Fingar, also said that Bolton had sought the removal of Christian Westermann, the bureau analyst who had also challenged the ambiguous intelligence Bolton wanted to make public about Cuba.
When Westermann shared his dissenting view about the intelligence, he was ordered to Bolton’s office and berated, Ford and Westermann said. Ford and Silver said Bolton wanted Westermann removed from his job at the intelligence bureau. Bolton denied that he tried to have anyone fired but said that the national intelligence officer and Westermann had acted inappropriately.
It should be easy for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to inquire from the State Department whether Bolton’s office had one of these controversial intel terminals or not.
In addition, Mr. Bolton should make clear if he did not have access to said terminal, who in the national security bureacracy was feeding him “unprocessed intelligence,” particularly on North Korea, Iran, and Cuba.
These kinds of allegations are very, very serious — and TWN is treading as carefully as possible here. These comments on the intel terminal are still semi-speculative, but many say that circumstantial evidence points to such capacity in Bolton’s office.
Someone should pose these questions about the terminal and about the intel sources to Bolton directly; and then hope he does not obfuscate, or lie.
— Steve Clemons