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Emails show bolton twisting intelligence { May 11 2005 }

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Bolton Office E-Mails Spotlight Tensions

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 11, 2005; A06

Opponents of John R. Bolton's nomination to become U.N. ambassador yesterday distributed recently declassified e-mails to focus attention on a 2002 dispute between Bolton's office and the State Department's intelligence bureau over a CIA analysis.

Democrats say the e-mails are part of a pattern of intimidation and twisting of intelligence during Bolton's tenure as undersecretary for arms control. But Republicans say a relatively minor conflict has been blown out of proportion.

The evidence collected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including numerous interviews with participants in the matter, does not conclusively link Bolton to the incident. Bolton told the committee in a written statement that he was overseas at the time and had "no recollection" of it.

Frederick Fleitz, his chief of staff, told investigators in a contentious interview last Thursday that he did not discuss the matter with Bolton before sending an e-mail saying he was writing "on behalf of U/S Bolton" to express his displeasure with the bureau, according to a transcript.

The debate centered on an important policy issue early in President Bush's first term -- the effectiveness of China's missile export controls.

The CIA analysis in question, written in August 2002, concluded that the export controls were deficient. This supported Bolton's thinking. He was headed overseas and had not read the report, but he asked Fleitz to have it sent to then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, Bolton told the committee.

But Fleitz was furious to later discover that the intelligence bureau attached a cover sheet to the analysis before sending it to Armitage, essentially taking the opposite position -- that the export controls were a step in the right direction. This appeared to support Armitage's view. Randall G. Schriver, Armitage's chief of staff, later called the intelligence bureau to praise its memo, "which he said D [Armitage] agreed with," according to an internal intelligence bureau e-mail recounting the dispute.

Fleitz is a career CIA agent on loan to Bolton's office, and the CIA analysis was produced by his professional home, the CIA's weapons proliferation center. In his interview last week, he suggested this link gave him a personal stake in how the analysis was treated. Democrats have speculated that Bolton, through Fleitz, ordered up an analysis to suit his preferences, though they have found no proof of that.

In his e-mail, to a top official in the intelligence bureau, Fleitz referred to a dispute three months earlier with the intelligence bureau over an alleged Cuban bioweapons program. "Actions of this type cannot help but undermine the bond of trust between" Bolton's office and the intelligence bureau, he wrote, suggesting that Bolton's office might seek to bypass the intelligence bureau in the future.

Fleitz also visited the intelligence bureau "to share his feelings about our memo," according to the bureau e-mail, which had a sarcastic tone. Fleitz, according to the e-mail, said "it was unprofessional . . . to criticize the 'carefully vetted' work of 'experts' in the IC," or intelligence community. The writer of the e-mail, whose name was censored, reported that Fleitz was told that the CIA analysis itself had not been fully blessed by the intelligence community, "and would have come out differently if it had been."

In the blowup over the Cuba intelligence, Bolton summoned Christian Westermann, an intelligence bureau analyst, to his office for what Westermann described as a tongue-lashing. Westermann, in an interview last Wednesday that was released yesterday, told investigators the experience created a "difficult work climate" and left him "approaching issues so that I didn't step on a land mine."

Democrats say the two incidents, combined with Bolton's role in seeking the reassignment of the national intelligence officer for Latin America, point to an unacceptable pattern of trying to twist intelligence to suit policy objectives. But Republicans say it is part of the normal give-and-take during a contentious policy debate.

Fleitz told the committee staff that he viewed the dispute as a "minor matter." After he sent his e-mail, the intelligence bureau "never responded to me, and I never raised it again, and I forgot about it," he said, adding that he does not remember discussing it with Bolton.

State Department officials said Bolton, in contrast to some other undersecretaries, was known for empowering his special assistants to throw their weight around, which caused tensions within the State Department. Fleitz said he wanted the intelligence bureau to know it "should have checked on the analytic assumptions before attaching the rebuttal."

The bureau supervisor -- whose name was not disclosed in her interview last Wednesday -- said that "in the intelligence community, there are lots of disagreements among analysts and agencies about how individual analysts or individual agencies interpret facts," according to a transcript. But she said it was the only case she knew of in her 27 years in the bureau in which analysts were told not to include their views on material they transmit.

But Neil Silver, a director of an office in the bureau, told investigators last Thursday that the analyst who wrote the counter-memo "had a pretty thick skin" and did not have "any second doubts or regrets" about his actions. "It had no effect whatever in how we would decide to do our work," he said.

2005 The Washington Post Company

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