We know little about the controversial NSA intercept materials (and roster of redacted names of U.S. officials mentioned in the transcripts) which were requested and reviewed by John Bolton.
What we do know through sources is that the bulk of the material dealt with incidents in 2003 and 2004. This could mean that Bolton was spying on his colleagues’ North Korea diplomacy, on the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, or other cases.
But one of the biggest issues that has eluded the mainstream media and venues like TWN is what Bolton did with the intelligence he reviewed.
Anyone observing the brewing NSA intercepts controversy and the impact on Congress’s role in investigating Executive Branch appointments and in the principle of “separation of powers” in general must be impressed by the administration’s enormous efforts to keep these intercepts from falling into public hands — so much so that the Director of National Intelligence believes that he has the right to defy the Congressional mandate of U.S. Senators conducting an investigation of an Executive Branch official.
But John Bolton could get the intercepts easily. And then he was able to ask the National Security Agency for the redacted names of U.S. officials that had been routinely scrubbed from the intercepts. Bolton did this ten and perhaps more times; more if the requests were made by analysts working in Bolton’s department but made in the name of other officials.
What TWN has just learned from a source — a single source — is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is now looking into whether or not Bolton misused the super-secret information he retrieved from the intercepts.
Given the paranoia about Joe Biden, Richard Lugar, or Christopher Dodd seeing the intercept material — one would only imagine that Bolton seeing this information and then DOING SOMETHING WITH IT, or better yet, SHARING THE INFORMATION WITH OTHERS, may have crossed some serious legal lines.
TWN has no information that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has decided that any criminal activity occurred — nor has information that the Committee is doing anything other than “looking into these questions.”
But this set of circumstances raises the obvious question: What did John Bolton do with the NSA intercept material?
Given the obsessive concern over sources and methods being revealed, and about the protocols involved in managing compartmentalized intelligence (as referred to in the last letter of this Biden letter to John Negroponte), if Bolton did share information or revelations from the intercepts, then American national security may have been undermined by Bolton’s actions.
Without the intercept material, it is very difficult to compare Bolton’s base of knowledge about the people and circumstances of some target the NSA was watching and what Bolton did either publicly or privately with the information he learned. In other words, if he shared such information with the Vice President’s office, or with other officials across the government, then serious violations of protocol occurred.
More later, but the NSA intercepts continue to be of vital importance in the Battle over Bolton.
— Steve Clemons