Senator Rockefeller, along with many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues, gave a compelling and powerful roster of reasons to reject Bolton and to encourage the President to reconsider this nomination.
I am attaching Senator Rockefeller’s floor statement in full here but am excerpting the opening key statement below (the statement will appear in tomorrow’s Congressional Record):
As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I oppose the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. I purposely highlight my position on the Intelligence Committee because it is Mr. Bolton’s pattern of attempting to distort and misuse intelligence that is the primary reason I am opposing his nomination.
Senator Biden and the other members of the Foreign Relations Committee have walked through the facts related to Mr. Bolton so I will not go into all of the details, but I do intend to provide some background and expand on one critical issue. And I want to explain why this issue should matter to my colleagues and why Mr. Bolton’s actions disqualify him from this position.
As my colleges know, beginning in June 2003, the Senate Intelligence Committee undertook an exhaustive inquiry into the intelligence concerning Iraq prior to the war. After more than a year, the Committee unanimously approved a scathing 511 page report describing the Intelligence Community’s systemic failures, particularly on issues related to Iraq’s WMD programs.
One of the issues central to the Committee’s review was the question of “whether any influence was brought to bear on anyone to shape their analysis to support policy objectives.” It was a question so important and so fundamental to our Committee’s oversight role that answering it was one of the four specific tasks laid out by Chairman Roberts and me at the beginning of this inquiry.
The issue of maintaining objectivity goes to the heart of intelligence and intelligence oversight. Our intelligence agencies are charged with gathering information around the world and then objectively analyzing that information and providing it to the rest of the U.S. government. Intelligence consumers then rely on that information for a variety of activities.
Often that information forms the foundation of the national security policies we depend on to keep our country safe.
Consequently, it is absolutely essential that our intelligence is objective, independent and accurate. If it is not, the system does not work, we waste billions of dollars a year, and we end up making critical national security decisions based on flawed assumptions.
In the extreme, intelligence that is manipulated or shaped to fit preconceived notions could lead the country into a war we should not be fighting.
This, of course, was the concern that many of us had when we began our investigation of pre-war intelligence. It was a central point of the Committee’s review and was a something we pursued aggressively.
In that case, the Committee did not find evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to specifically change their judgments related to Iraq’s WMD. I supported that finding, although in my additional views I described what I thought was a more pervasive environment of pressure created prior to the war to reach conclusions that supported the Administration policies.
I describe this effort now, however, not to revisit the issues we investigated, but to impress on my colleagues and the public how serious it is when policy makers are accused of attempting to manipulate the intelligence process. This is behavior that we can not tolerate. And this is the pattern of behavior Mr. Bolton has exhibited during his tenure as Under Secretary of State.
Moderate Republicans and Democrats are finding their atrophied muscles still work and are challenging the monarchial tendencies of the Cheney-Bolton axis.
More to come.
— Steve Clemons