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Senate panel hears criticism of Bush's choice for U.N. post
McClatchy Newspapers


April 13, 2005

Washington - John R. Bolton, President Bush's choice to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who bullied subordinates and threatened to end the career of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him on Cuba's weapons arsenal, a former State Department official testified Tuesday.

Carl W. Ford Jr., the former head of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research, said that Bolton sought to have analyst Christian Westermann dismissed from his job after Westermann followed "normal procedure" in challenging a statement Bolton planned to make on Cuba's possession of biological weapons.

Ford, a government intelligence agent for more than 30 years who described himself as a "loyal Republican, conservative to the core," told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he had "real questions about Bolton's suitability" to serve as chief U.S. spokesman at the United Nations.

"I have never seen anyone quite like Mr. Bolton," Ford said. "He abuses his authority with little people." Ford described Bolton as a "serial abuser" of people who disagreed with his views.

"Mr. Bolton needs anger management at a minimum," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

But Bolton's path to confirmation seemed to be open after Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said he was "still inclined" to join the nine other committee Republicans in voting for Bolton's promotion.

"I see the bar as very high" for rejecting the president's nominees, Chafee said.

The eight Democrats on the committee appear set to vote against Bolton. But a 10-8 vote would get the nomination to the Senate floor, where Republicans seem to have more than enough votes to confirm Bolton no later than next week.

"I'm trying to give Mr. Bolton the benefit of the doubt," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., a committee member.

Boxer said Bolton was guilty of "workplace harassment" in subjecting Westermann to "heavy-duty inappropriate pressure."

But the effort by Boxer and other Democrats to block Bolton's confirmation appeared to be undercut by Ford's acknowledgment that what he called "tirades" by Bolton did not result in "politicization" of intelligence estimates.

And in the end Bolton, despite his complaints, complied with the ruling of the analyst.

At the core of the dispute was an attempt in 2002 by Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, to include a reference to Cuba in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

His apparent plan to say that Cuba had biological warfare agents available to use and sell to other nations exceeded the Bush administration analysis that Cuba could develop such weapons. In vetting the speech, Westermann sought to restrict Bolton to the Bush administration's official position.

According to Ford and others interviewed by the Senate committee, Bolton angrily reprimanded Westermann, threatening his job. Westermann refused to change his position and reported his meeting with Bolton to his bosses.

Bolton's attack on Westermann quickly became known throughout the U.S. intelligence community and Secretary of State Colin Powell followed it by assuring intelligence analysts that he wanted their honest evaluations, Ford said.

Ford's sworn testimony that Bolton attempted to have Westermann ousted as the Cuba arms analyst was at odds with Bolton's insistence Monday that he never tried to have Westermann fired. Bolton said he was irked that Westermann sent his prepared statement on Cuba to other government analysts for their vetting.

But such a procedure is followed whenever any major State Department official, including the secretary, proposes to deliver a speech on policy and intelligence, Ford said.

Democrats seized the testimony by Ford, whose career included stints as a military analyst in the military and intelligence work at the Pentagon and CIA, as evidence that the Senate should not confirm Bolton as the top U.S. diplomat at the United Nations.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee for the White House in 2004, said that Bolton's pressure on the analyst reminded him of faulty intelligence estimates that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a sentiment echoed by other senators.

"After 9/11 and the debacle over intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, government officials should not be suppressing dissenting views on intelligence. We should be encouraging them," Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said. "The last thing we need is group-think."

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the committee chairman, said it was important for the Senate to give the president the official he wants to lead reform at the United Nations.

"Bluntness may not be very good diplomacy, but on occasion it may be required," Lugar said.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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