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Nomination of John Robert Bolton to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations -- Part 1

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Location: Washington, DC


NOMINATION OF JOHN ROBERT BOLTON TO BE THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE UNITED NATIONS -- (Senate - May 25, 2005)

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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to state what is obvious to the Chair and my colleagues, that I will oppose the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. representative to the United Nations. I regret, frankly, we are even debating this nomination while the administration continues to withhold relevant material about Mr. Bolton that the committee has requested, and for which no reasonable explanation has been given as to why it has not been provided other than they do not think the information is ``relevant'' to our inquiry. I will return to that issue later today.

The job to which Mr. Bolton has been nominated is one of the most important ambassadorships the President fills. It is, in fact, the most important one. In the past, it has often held Cabinet rank. Leading figures of their day have held that job, people such as Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, Democrat Adlai Stevenson, President George Herbert Walker Bush, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Richard Holbrooke, Senator Jack Danforth. Aside from the President and the Secretary of State, the U.N. ambassador is the best known face of American diplomacy.

It is a job that in my view requires a person with diplomatic temperament, a person willing to listen to other points of view, and blessed with the power to be able to persuade, such as President Bush's father George Herbert Walker Bush was.

It is a job that requires a person of great credibility, such as Governor Adlai Stevenson.

It is a job that requires a person who is not an ideologue, such as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat who served a Republican President as ambassador to the United Nations.

And it is a job, in my view, that requires a person who has the complete confidence of the President of the United States and Secretary of State, such as Jeane Kirkpatrick did.

Mr. Bolton is not that person. He is no diplomat, as evidenced by his contempt for opposing views and his inability or unwillingness to listen. His credibility is in grave doubt, as evidenced by his repeated efforts to distort facts to fit preformed views. He is an ideologue--a bright ideologue, but nonetheless an ideologue, as evidenced by his long record both in and out of Government. And he lacks the trust and confidence of his superiors, as evidenced by the fact that the Secretary of State has felt the need to assure Senators in this Chamber that Mr. Bolton will be ``closely supervised.'' As one of our colleagues said, why in the Lord's name would you send someone to the United Nations who had to be ``closely supervised?''

The job of U.N. ambassador is important, to state the obvious, because of the many challenges the United States confronts in the year 2005. I would argue it is a more important post than at any time since 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis. We confront a monumental threat by radical Islamic fundamentalists bent on destroying America and our allies. We confront a radical regime in North Korea and a theocracy in Iran that seek nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. We confront the challenge of building democratic states in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries that have known mostly dictatorship and suffering for generations. We confront the challenges of the AIDS pandemic, war and humanitarian catastrophes across the African continent, and the threat of instability in every continent.

Despite our vast economic and military power we cannot--or I should say more appropriately, we need not--face these challenges alone. America's security is enhanced when we work with our allies, and the United Nations is one of the places we can find them. Our security is enhanced when even those who are not considered our allies understand that the threat that we are concerned about is common to all of us, to them as well as us, to almost all nation states.

For better or worse, the United Nations is an essential forum for the advancement of U.S. foreign policy and national security interests in the year 2005--a troublesome forum but in fact a necessary forum. For better or worse, the U.N. Security Council makes decisions that affect international security and stability. Granted, they cannot make any decision without the United States signing off--we can veto it--but they have the ability to isolate us instead of isolating those who should be isolated.

For better or worse, the United Nations provides a means for the United States to gain international support for difficult missions it seeks to undertake, not only in our interest but in the interest of others, allowing us to share the cost and burdens with others and not put it all on the back of the American taxpayer.

The United Nations is not perfect, as the Presiding Officer well knows--far from it. It needs significant reform--again as the Presiding Officer knows. But let's not equate reform of the United Nations with John Bolton, as some of our colleagues have attempted to do. We have, under the leadership of Jesse Helms and with my help, passed the Helms-Biden legislation reforming portions of the United Nations. Much more needs to be done.

I would note that when we had John Danforth, an incredibly well respected ambassador, up until a couple of months ago, and before him Mr. Negroponte, there was not all this talk about the primary responsibility being reform.

They were fully capable of dealing with reform.

I would point out that not even the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, believes John Bolton is necessary for reforming the United Nations. Four days after the Bolton nomination was announced, Dr. Rice appointed another person, Dr. Shirin Tahir-Kheli, ``to serve as the Secretary's senior advisor and chief interlocutor on United Nations reform.'' The State Department press release announcing the appointment made no mention of Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Bolton was not picked because his job was United Nations reform. That is the job of every U.S. ambassador to the U.N., or part of the job. No, this debate is not about U.N. reform or U.N. interests; it is about whether the appointment of Mr. Bolton is in the national interests of the United States of America. I firmly believe, as my friend from Ohio, Mr. Voinovich, does, that it is not in the U.S. interests.

There are four reasons to vote no on Mr. Bolton. Each, standing alone, in my view, would justify a negative vote, but taken together they provide an overwhelming case. What is even more extraordinary is that much of the evidence for this case comes from senior officials in the Bush administration who worked with Mr. Bolton. The bulk of the evidence to make the cases I am about to make came from senior Republican administration officials who worked with Mr. Bolton. They had nothing to gain and a good deal to lose by appearing before our committee, but everyone came voluntarily. No one had to be subpoenaed. We asked and they came.

The first reason Mr. Bolton should, in my view, be denied the ambassadorship to the United Nations is that Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought to remove intelligence analysts who disagreed with him. Mr. Bolton was not content to fight the normal policy battles. He had to crush people, even if they were just doing their jobs.

One analyst was Christian Westermann, an expert on biological and chemical weapons with a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy who worked in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research after retiring from the U.S. military.

In February of 2002, Mr. Westermann was asked by Mr. Bolton's staff, which is standard operating procedure, to begin the intelligence community clearance process for three sentences that Mr. Bolton wanted to put in a speech about the biological weapons effort of Cuba. The speech was not made yet; the speech was in the making. What is a normal operating procedure in this State Department, the last State Department, and the ones before that, is that when a policymaker wishes to include in a speech intelligence data or assertions that the U.S. government or the intelligence community believes thus and so, it has to be cleared first by the intelligence community.

Mr. Westermann, the State Department's intelligence analyst for biological weapons, had two roles in this process of clearing these three sentences. One was to transmit the material to a clearance coordinator at the CIA who would then seek clearance from all the other intelligence agencies in the Government--Defense Intelligence, et cetera, a whole panoply of the intelligence community. The second function Mr. Westermann had as the intelligence officer at the State Department for biological weapons was to provide the substantive comments of his Bureau--that is, INR--on Mr. Bolton's text to this clearance coordinator; in other words, in addition to what the other intelligence agencies thought about these three sentences, to say what the intelligence analysts in the State Department thought about these three sentences.

In performing that latter function, Mr. Westermann proposed alternative language to the three sentences submitted by Mr. Bolton's staff, a standard means of trying to help a policymaker say something about classified matters so that the sources and methods are not compromised and so that the statement is consistent with the intelligence community's judgments on that point being spoken to. When Mr. Bolton found out that Mr. Westermann suggested alternative language, he hit the roof. He summoned Mr. Westermann to his office and gave him a tongue lashing.

Look, Mr. Westermann does not work directly for Mr. Bolton. There is within the State Department Mr. Bolton's operation, the people who work directly for him, and then there is the intelligence operation, INR, headed at the time by a guy named Carl Ford. At the bottom of the food chain is the guy in charge of biological weapons as an intelligence analyst; that is, Mr. Westermann.

Mr. Bolton summoned Mr. Westermann into his office and, according to Mr. Westermann, Bolton was ``red faced'' and yelling at him. When Mr. Westermann tried to explain what he had done, Mr. Bolton threw him out of his office.

Then, over the course of the next 6 months, Mr. Bolton tried on three separate occasions to have Mr. Westermann removed from his position. During the committee hearing, Mr. Bolton grudgingly conceded that he sought to remove Mr. Westermann from his portfolio, but he tried to minimize his involvement. Mr. Bolton suggested that he asked one of Mr. Westermann's supervisors to give Mr. Westermann a new portfolio, but then, he said, ``I shrugged my shoulders and moved on.'' But the evidence is clear that Mr. Bolton did not, as he said, ``move on.'' He tried twice more to remove Mr. Westermann, the biological weapons expert. A few days later, he tried to remove him, and then several months later.

My friend from Indiana--and as we say here, he is my friend--argues this does not matter. Mr. Westermann kept his job, no harm, no foul--my words. But the system had to work overtime to counteract the harmful effects of this episode.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to Carl Ford, the former Assistant Secretary of State for INR, who says he supports the President and, in his words, is a huge fan of Vice President Cheney, and not anyone who has ever been accused of being a liberal Democrat.

Mr. Ford testified that the analysts in his Bureau were ``very negatively affected by this incident--they were scared.'' Ford said that after the Westermann incident, he tried to make the best of a bad situation by using the incident as a training vehicle to explain to his people how to handle similar situations if they came up. At Ford's request, Secretary Powell made a special trip to speak to the INR analysts, where Mr. Powell singled out Mr. Westermann and told the analysts they should continue to ``speak truth to power.'' They had to do this because Mr. Bolton was allergic to people delivering news that his proposed language was not supported by the evidence.

As one of Mr. Westermann's supervisors recounted, Mr. Bolton declared ``he wasn't going to be told what he could say by a mid-level munchkin analyst.'' At the U.N., the special representative has to listen to a lot of people who disagree with him and then report back faithfully on what they are saying. Is Mr. Bolton capable of doing that?

The second analyst Mr. Bolton tried to remove from his position is a more remarkable case for two reasons: The analyst worked in another agency; and his portfolio did not involve Mr. Bolton's area of responsibility, which was arms control and weapons of mass destruction.

The analyst was the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America. He disputed language on Cuba that was used in a speech Mr. Bolton had given, and that he then wanted to give again in congressional testimony.

During the committee hearing, Mr. Bolton again tried to minimize his actions, stating that his effort to remove this individual was ``one part of one conversation with one person, one time ..... and that was it, I let it go.''

The evidence shows that he did not let it go but, rather, that he and his staff actively discussed the removal of this National Intelligence Officer over the course of 4 months.

In early June of 2002, an aide to Mr. Bolton circulated a draft letter from Mr. Bolton and Ambassador Otto Reich, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. The draft was addressed to Director of Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. George Tenet.

The draft letter urged the immediate replacement of the National Intelligence Officer and indicated that Bolton and Reich would take several measures on their own, including banning the National Intelligence Officer from official meetings at the State Department and from official travel in the Western Hemisphere.

A response to the e-mail from a colleague reported that he discussed the same matter with Mr. Bolton, whom he said ``would prefer at this point to handle this in person with [Mr.] Tenet.''

The following month--again, going to the issue of whether he tried to get this guy removed--Mr. Bolton traveled to the CIA headquarters to meet with Mr. Stuart Cohen, the Acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, where he asked that the National Intelligence Officer be removed from his position.

Mr. Cohen, the Acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said he did not remember many details about the meeting with Mr. Bolton other than Mr. Bolton's intent was clear: He wanted the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America removed.

Later that month--again, remember, Mr. Bolton said: I did not try to get this guy. I let it alone--a senior aide to Mr. Bolton told a senior aide to Mr. Reich that Bolton wanted to meet Reich to ``discuss the draft letter to CIA on our favorite subject'' and said that ``John doesn't want this to slip any further.''

The next day, the same aide to Mr. Bolton e-mailed Secretary Reich and his aide and had a new draft to the letter. He said that the draft ``relies on John's tough talk with [Mr.] Cohen ``about the national intelligence officers.

So much for not trying to get him removed.

Two months later, in September, another draft letter urging the removal of the National Intelligence Officer was exchanged between Mr. Bolton's office and Mr. Reich's office.

Now, does that sound like he ``let it go,'' as he said he did? Remember, his staff said Mr. Bolton said he doesn't want to let this matter ``slip any further.'' If you ask me, this was more than ``one part of one conversation ..... one time,'' as Mr. Bolton said. It was a campaign, a vendetta, against a person Mr. Bolton had never met and whose work Mr. Bolton acknowledges he cannot recall ever reading, all because he questioned Mr. Bolton.

If this is how Mr. Bolton reacts to someone he has never met, how will he control himself in New York? Secretary Rice, the Secretary of State, told the Senator from Ohio that Mr. Bolton will be ``closely supervised.'' How much energy at the State Department will be diverted to supervising Mr. Bolton?

Thankfully, senior management at CIA had the good sense to rebuff Mr. Bolton's attempts to remove the National Intelligence Officer. The former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, John McLaughlin, remembers that when the issue was raised with him, he adamantly rejected it. Here is what the Deputy Director of the CIA said:

Well, we're not going to do that, absolutely not. No way. End of story.

Mr. McLaughlin, at the CIA, explained why he so Strongly opposed Mr. Bolton's proposal to get rid of this national intelligence officer. And I quote from Mr. McLaughlin, formerly at the CIA:

It's perfectly all right for a policymaker to express disagreement with an ..... analyst, and it's perfectly all right for them to ..... challenge their work vigorously. But I think it's different to then request, because of the disagreement, that the person be transferred. And ..... unless there is malfeasance involved here--and, in this case, I had high regard for the individual's work; therefore, I had a strong negative reaction to the suggestion about moving him.

He is speaking of the National Intelligence Officer.

That, all by itself, is reason to vote against Mr. Bolton--thoroughly outrageous conduct as it related to two intelligence officers who disagreed with him.

A second reason to oppose Mr. Bolton is that he frequently sought to stretch the intelligence--the available intelligence--to say things in speeches and in testimony that the intelligence community would not support. The committee report lays out this allegation in extensive detail, and it is there for every Senator to see. There is ample evidence that Mr. Bolton sought to cherry-pick, as one analyst said, cherry-pick intelligence; sought to game the system, to get the clearances he wanted, or simply sought to intimidate intelligence analysts to get them to say what he wanted.

Again, don't take my word for it. Take the word of an administration appointee, Mr. Robert Hutchings, the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2004. Chairman Hutchings said, in the summer of 2003, that Mr. Bolton prepared a speech on Syria and weapons of mass destruction that ``struck me as going well beyond ..... where the evidence would legitimately take us. And that was the judgment of the experts on my staff, as well.''

Now, remember, this is 2003. We had 160,000 troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan. There was all kinds of talk on the floor of the Senate and in the Nation about whether we would invade Syria next. There was all kinds of discussion and supposition that the weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq--and we later learned had not existed after 1991 or 1995--had been smuggled, for hiding, into Syria. It was a very delicate moment, in which if, in fact, a senior administration official came forward and said there was evidence that there was a nuclear weapons program in Syria, we might have had a war.

Mr. Bolton wanted to make a speech about that, and here is the guy who headed up the National Intelligence Council, the chairman. He said that what Bolton wanted to say ``struck me as going well beyond ..... where the evidence would legitimately take us. And that was the judgment of the experts on my staff, as well.''

This is not minor stuff. I remind the American people and my colleagues that an awful lot of Senators voted to go to war in Iraq on the assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which now the administration itself acknowledges they did not have. Mr. Bolton, according to the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, wanted to say things about Syria and weapons of mass destruction that struck him and his experts as going beyond what could legitimately be stated.

Chairman Hutchings said that Bolton took ``isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted.''

Does that sound familiar to you? Remember aluminum tubes, offered by the Vice President as evidence that Iraq had a gas centrifuge system, had reconstituted their nuclear capability, when, in fact, the most informed elements of the intelligence community said those tubes--because they were anodized--couldn't be used for a gas centrifuge system? Facts taken out of context to make a case that didn't exist got us into war prematurely.

Here we now have Mr. Bolton, when people are talking about going to war with Syria, and the head of the National Intelligence Council says Mr. Bolton took ``isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted. It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest-possible case.''

Let me take you back to aluminum tubes, out of context, an isolated fact, drawn out to present the starkest possible case that Iraq had ``reconstituted its nuclear capability.''

There used to be an expression my dad used to say in World War II: Loose lips sink ships. Cherry-picking little factoids and little isolated bits drawn out to present the starkest-possible case can cause wars.

Listen to Larry Wilkinson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff, a military man himself. He told us that because of the problems that the State Department was having with Mr. Bolton's speeches not always being properly cleared by the State Department offices and officials--think of this now, the Chief of Staff, a military man himself, I think a colonel, working for the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then Secretary of State, said that because Mr. Bolton didn't properly clear his speeches with the appropriate authorities and experts within the State Department--the Deputy Secretary of State, the No. 2 man, Secretary Armitage ``made a decision that John Bolton would not give any testimony, nor would he give any speech that wasn't cleared first by Rich [Armitage].''

Think of that. Here is the guy, head of the arms control and nonproliferation piece of the President's operation at the State Department who needs, as much as anyone, classified information and accurate intelligence, and he has to be told by the No. 2 man at the State Department that he is no longer authorized to make any speech without it first being cleared by the No. 2 man at the State Department. I don't do that with my senior staff. I don't have to. It is truly remarkable.

This may have occurred with one of the six other Presidents with whom I have served since I have been here, but if it has, I am unaware of it, and I would like to know.

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