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Nomination of John Robert Bolton to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations -- Part 3

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SARBANES. Would the Senator yield on that point?

Mr. BIDEN. Yes, I will.

Mr. SARBANES. These are the very names that were provided to Mr. Bolton; is that right?

Mr. BIDEN. And his staff, yes.

Mr. SARBANES. And his staff?

Mr. BIDEN. And his staff.

Mr. SARBANES. But there is a refusal to provide them to the committee which now has to make a judgment as to whether Mr. Bolton should be confirmed to be the American ambassador to the United Nations?

Mr. BIDEN. If the Senator would yield, not only a refusal to provide them to our committee that has that responsibility, refusal to provide them even to the Intelligence Committee that is once removed from this process--the same information that was made available to one of several Under Secretaries in the State Department and his staff.

Mr. SARBANES. Well, what rationale is advanced, if any, for this backhanded treatment of the institutions of the Senate, these two important committees, the Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee, both of which are trying to conduct due diligence on this nominee?

I might say to my colleague, I remember when we held the nomination hearings for John Negroponte and Richard Holbrooke. That investigation went over an extended period of time and probed very deeply. The end result, of course, was that questions that had been raised were answered satisfactorily, and the body was able to come to a consensus about those nominees.

I cannot think of a rationale that can be offered that would warrant a withholding of this information.

Mr. BIDEN. There is no institutional, constitutional, or previously asserted rationale that has been offered in denying access of the Intelligence Committee or, for that matter, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman and ranking member to this information. I do not remember the exact quote. It may apply to the information we are seeking on Syria--I am not sure--saying that they did not think it was relevant, but I do not recall.

I say to my friend from Maryland, there was no assertion on the part of the NSA, that I am aware of, that asserted that it was executive privilege or even that it was extremely sensitive. We have access to incredibly sensitive information. That is the reason we have an Intelligence Committee. That is the reason we on the Foreign Relations Committee have cross-pollination on that committee. So there is no reason--the Senator asked why they would deny it. The Senator's speculation is as good as mine. It seems to me they can end this thing very quickly. The only request being made is that Senator Lugar, Senator Roberts, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Rockefeller, and I sit down in a room on the fourth floor of this building that is totally secure, have someone from the National Security Agency come in and say: Here are the 10 intercept reports and the U.S. person names.

I know more about--I will date myself--I know more about the PSI of an SS-18 Soviet silo, which is highly classified information. Why am I not able to get information in the execution of my responsibilities under the Constitution that is available to a staff member of an Under Secretary of State? Members can guess for themselves. I do not know why. I know it is just not appropriate.

Mr. SARBANES. I thank the Senator for yielding. I just underscore this raises, I think, very fundamental and difficult questions about how we are supposed to carry out our responsibilities, in terms of advice and consent, if we are not allowed to get what appears to be relevant information or what might well be relevant information.

The request is fairly limited, as I understand it, in terms of what is being sought. It seems to me that information ought to be provided to the Senate, or the appropriate agents or organs of the Senate, in order to put us into a position to at least address that aspect of this situation.

There are many other aspects of the Bolton situation that I want to speak to later. But this one, it seems to me, is clearly an instance in which we are simply being blocked or frustrated from having information which is important to us carrying out our task, and is in such contrast with the inquiries that were made about other nominees to be U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations. Of course, I mentioned two of those. The inquiries there went over quite a sustained period of time.

We heard these complaints that Bolton is being held up. His nomination only came to us in March, I believe, of this year--March. Ambassador Holbrooke was nominated in June of 1998. He was finally confirmed in August of 1999. In the interim, these extensive investigations were run. I do not have the exact dates on Ambassador Negroponte, but I know that period of time extended well beyond what is already involved with respect to John Bolton.

Mr. BIDEN. If the Senator will yield, I think Negroponte was nominated in May and confirmed in September.

Mr. SARBANES. Well, there you are. That underscores the point I am trying to make.

I thank the Senator for yielding.

Mr. BIDEN. Let me continue.

Mr. ALLEN. Mr. President, if I may ask the Senator from Delaware how much longer he expects to be?

Mr. BIDEN. I will be about another 12 to 15 minutes.


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, while my friend from Maryland is here, I want to point out, first of all, the request is very limited. We are looking for the names in 10 reports. It is totally circumscribed, the request as relates to this issue which you so painstakingly went through, explaining what it was that worried everybody--and worries everybody--about Mr. Bolton and the use of intelligence information, even after he has been proscribed, prevented, from being able to speak without clearance, which is--you and I have been here a long time--fairly remarkable. That may have happened to other people in the State Department. I can't recall it happening.

Mr. SARBANES. If the Senator will yield, this is an Under Secretary of State. This is like the No. 4 person in the Department.

Mr. BIDEN. That's right. Now, after that occurs, or in the process of this occurring, Mr. Bolton's Chief of Staff contacts the CIA on a disputed issue about what can be said, and says--I don't know if you were here when I said this. To tell you the truth, I thought I knew all this, but I was surprised when my staff pointed this out. Mr. Bolton's acting Chief of Staff said Mr. Bolton wanted to make a statement on Cuba, and they didn't want to let him make that statement.

Mr. Bolton's staff gets back to the CIA and says: Several heavy hitters are involved in this one, and they may choose to push ahead over your objections and the objections of INR, unless there is serious source and method concerned.

Remember, going back to our discussions?


Mr. BIDEN. Then he, this staff member, goes and contacts the CIA and says: You know, we would like to change the ground rules. We can say the intelligence community thinks the following, even if you disagree. We don't have to clear it with you. The only thing we have to clear with you is whether or not we are exposing a source or a method. Let's have that new deal.

Mr. SARBANES. Of course, that represented a sharp departure from previous practice.

Mr. BIDEN. A complete departure. But the point I am trying to make is he keeps pushing the envelope, he keeps pushing the envelope.

Mr. SARBANES. I take it, if the Senator will yield--I take it this is of such importance now because we are dealing with this problem as to whether intelligence is being misused.

Mr. BIDEN. Yes.

Mr. SARBANES. Decisions are being made by policymakers that reflect their policy attitude--

Mr. BIDEN. Right.

Mr. SARBANES. Not substantiated or backed up by the findings of the intelligence community. We have been through this issue. It seems to me a critically important issue.

Mr. BIDEN. Right. I would argue it is being pushed by a person whom everyone would acknowledge is an ideologue, or at least confirmed in what his views are and who seeks facts to sustain his opinion.

Look, the big difference, I say to my friend from Maryland, is that every time he tried to do that, repeatedly tried to do that in his job, his present job--every time he tried to push the envelope, every time he tried to intimidate, fire, cajole an intelligence officer to change his reading to comport with his prejudice, there was somebody there to intervene to stop him beyond the intelligence officer. There was the intelligence officer's boss, the deputy head of the CIA; the head of INR; the Deputy Secretary of State, the No. 2 man; the Secretary of State. That was bad enough.

But now where is Bolton going? Bolton is going to be the equivalent of the Secretary of State at the U.N. Bolton has, I don't know how large the embassy is, but a very large contingent of Americans working for him in New York City--I am told there are about 150 people there. No one, in that operation, can control the day-to-day, moment-to-moment assertions he is making. No one can say: You cannot do that, John. He's his own boss.

Now there is only one person who can do that. Well, the President can always do that. There is only one other person who can do that, and that is the Secretary of State.

Go back to the comment our friend from Ohio made, our Republican friend, in the committee. He said, when he spoke to the Secretary of State, she said, and I am paraphrasing: Don't worry. We will control him. Acknowledging that even though you are sending this guy up to what has been a Cabinet-level position, another Cabinet-level officer is going to have to control him. I would respectfully suggest our Secretary of State has her hands full as it is, without having to babysit Mr. Bolton so he doesn't get America in trouble--America; I don't care about John Bolton; I don't even care about the U.N. in this regard; I care about America.

This isn't complicated. Anybody can figure this out. Everybody acknowledges this guy is a loose cannon. Everybody acknowledges this guy has done things that, if he were able to do them unfettered, not overruled, would have at least raised the ante in the tension and the possibility of conflict with at least Syria and Cuba, among other places. And everybody acknowledges that he so far stepped out of line in the State Department that the Republican head of the State Department, Colin Powell, had to go down to analysts and say, basically: Don't pay attention to him. You did the right thing.

And then the No. 2 man at the State Department, a former military man himself, says: By the way Mr. Bolton, no more speeches by you unless I sign off on them.

Now we are going to take this guy, we are going to send him to the single most important ambassadorial spot in all of America's interests, and to make us feel confident, the Secretary of State says: Don't worry, we will supervise him.

Come on.

Mr. SARBANES. Will the Senator yield on one other point I would like to make?

Mr. BIDEN. Please.

Mr. SARBANES. First of all, I want to pay tribute to the intelligence analysts and their superiors who stood up to this pressure to which the Senator has referred. They were put in an extremely difficult situation, and they performed admirably.

It is asserted by some that no harm resulted from the pressure Mr. Bolton and his staff were placing on these people because they did not do what Mr. Bolton wanted them to do.

That seems to me to be an upside down argument. The fact that they had the strength to resist this is a tribute to them, but it is certainly no excuse for Mr. Bolton and his staff engaging in this behavior. And the fact they resisted--which is a credit to them--is still a detriment to Mr. Bolton and his staff for engaging in this practice.

So the argument that Mr. Bolton and his staff did not succeed in their efforts does not absolve them of responsibility for having tried.

Mr. BIDEN. It is as though I try to rob a bank and it turns out they shipped all the money out and there was no money there. I walk out and I get arrested. I say: Wait a minute, no harm, no foul, I didn't get any money. I went in to rob the bank, that is true, but I didn't get any money. So what is the problem? What is the problem?

Look, I told you about Mr. Bolton's staff, I assume with Mr. Bolton's authority, trying to get the intelligence community to change the groundrules. I gave the one example.

There is a second example. He did not just do this once. The e-mail I just described was not a one-time event. Later, Mr. Bolton's staff informed the intelligence community they wanted to change the rules for the review of Mr. Bolton's proposed speeches and to have the CIA and the intelligence community limit their objections only to matters related to the source and methods. They go on, in one meeting with intelligence analysts--a meeting Mr. Bolton called but he was unable to attend at the last minute--his staff informed the assembled analysts that Mr. Bolton wanted to hear only concerns relating to sources and methods from them or ideas that would strengthen his argument. But if his arguments were merely wrong, he did not want to hear about it.

Got that? I am not making this up. He, Bolton, calls the meeting of the CIA types, the INR types, to come into his office--he calls them into his office, and I guess he got called away and could not attend. But his staff says: The boss wants to make it clear there are only two things he wants to hear from you. If he wants to say the Moon is made of green cheese, the only thing he wants to hear from you is: You cannot say that because you will give away the fact that we have eyes. We have a source and a method that we do not want to release. Or he wants to hear from you how we can bolster the argument that the Moon is made of green cheese. But he does not want to hear from you if he is wrong. He does not want to hear from you if you do not believe the Moon is made of green cheese. That is none of your business. He does not want to hear that.

Look, I don't know how you define an ``ideologue.''

Mr. SARBANES. That is a pretty good definition.

Mr. BIDEN. I think it is pretty close. It is like that famous expression in a different context of Justice Holmes. He said prejudice is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine upon it, the tighter it closes.

It seems the more information you gave Mr. Bolton that conflicted with his predetermined ideological notion, the less he wanted to hear it. If you persisted in giving it to him, which was your job, he would try to get you fired.

This is not a minor deal. At the very moment when whoever we have as our ambassador to the United Nations is going to be the man, unfortunately, or woman, who will have to stand up before the whole world and say, We have evidence that North Korea is about to do the following; or, We have evidence that Iran has pursued their nuclear option to a point they are violating the NPT--let me ask the Senator, are we going to send John Bolton to a place where we have already squandered our credibility by saying something that we did not know, or saying things we thought we knew that were wrong, are we going to send John Bolton up to be the guy to make a case relating to our national security?

I ask my friend a rhetorical question--if, in fact, we fail to convince the Security Council, if we fail to convince our allies and those with a common interest that a threat exists and they do not come along, what are our options? Our options are to do nothing about it or to act alone. That is what I mean when I say I am concerned about U.S. interests.

There is a story I first heard from Zbigniew Brzezinski that I have used many times since. The Senator knows it as well. During the Cuban missile crisis, the very time when Adlai Stevenson stood up and said, don't tell me that, we know the President of the United States, John Kennedy, desperately needed--although we could have done it alone--desperately needed the support of the rest of our allies in the world for what we were about to do, confront the Soviet Union. And he sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Paris to meet with then-President Charles de Gaulle. I am told this is not an apocryphal story; it is historically accurate. Acheson walked in to the Presidential palace, the President's office, and made his case. Then, after making his case, allegedly, he leaned over to pick up the satellite photographs to show President de Gaulle that what he spoke of was absolutely true, and he had pictures to show it.

At that moment, paraphrasing, to the best of my knowledge, de Gaulle put up his hands and said: You need not show me the evidence. I know President Kennedy. And I know he could never tell us anything that could take us to war that wasn't true.

Do you think there is anyone, anyone, anyone--including our own delegation in the United Nations--who would accept an assertion from John Bolton on the same grounds?

Now, my friend, the chairman and others, will argue: Well, Joe, if it is that critical, he will not be making the case. That is probably true. It may be the Secretary of State making the case, who has great credibility. It may be the President of the United States. But there are a thousand little pieces that lead up to building coalitions that relate to our self-interest, based upon an ambassador privately sitting with another ambassador and assuring him that what he speaks is true.

This is absolutely the wrong man at the wrong time for the most important job in diplomacy that exists right now.

Mr. President, I ask my colleagues, is John Bolton a man in the tradition of Adlai Stevenson or Jack Danforth or any number of people I can name?

There is a third reason to oppose Mr. Bolton.

This is one that has animated the interest and concern of my friend from Ohio even more than it has me; and that is, that Mr. Bolton engages in abusive treatment of colleagues in the State Department, and he exercises frequent lapses of judgment in dealing with them.

Again, do not take my word for it. Carl Ford, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence, described Mr. Bolton--and I am using Carl Ford's colorful language, I guess it is an Arkansas expression; he is from Arkansas--he said Mr. Bolton is a ``quintessential kiss-up, kick down kind of guy.''

He also objected, Mr. Ford did, in strong terms, to the treatment of one of his subordinates, Mr. Westermann. He said:

Secretary Bolton chose to reach five or six levels below him in the bureaucracy, bring an analyst into his office, and give him a tongue lashing. ..... he was so far over the line that [it's] one of the sort of memorable moments in my 30-plus year career.

Listen to Larry Wilkerson, Secretary Powell's chief of staff, who referred to Mr. Bolton--I am not making up these phrases--he referred to Bolton as a ``lousy leader.'' And he told the committee that he--Wilkerson had an open-door policy. Some Senators and others have that policy. They literally keep their door open so anyone in the organization can feel free to walk in and say what is on their mind. He said his open-door policy--this is the chief of staff for the Secretary of State--he said his open-door policy led to a steady stream of senior officials who came into his office to complain about Mr. Bolton's behavior.

Listen to John Wolf, a career Foreign Service Officer for 35 years, who worked under Mr. Bolton as the Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation. Mr. Wolf said that Mr. Bolton blocked an assignment of a man he--Mr. Wolf--described as a ``truly outstanding civil servant,'' some 9 months after that civil servant made an inadvertent mistake.

And Mr. Wolf says that Mr. Bolton asked him to remove two other officials because of disagreements Mr. Bolton had over policy, and that Mr. Bolton ``tended not to be enthusiastic about alternative views.''

If that is not a quintessentially State Department, career Foreign Service Officer phrase: he ``tended not to be enthusiastic about alternative views.''

Listen to Will Taft, a man whose name became known here in the investigations relating to Abu Ghraib and the treaties that were discussed about the treatment of prisoners. Mr. Taft served in the State Department as legal adviser under Secretary Powell during the tenure of Mr. Bolton. And before that, he was general counsel in two other Government Departments, as well as Deputy Secretary of Defense, and formerly an ambassador to NATO--significant positions.

Mr. Taft told our committee he had to take the extraordinary step of going to his boss--Mr. Taft's boss--to rein in Mr. Bolton after Bolton refused to work with the State Department attorney on a lawsuit in which the State Department was a defendant.

This resulted--I will skip a little bit here--this incident caused the Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Armitage, to write to Mr. Bolton a memo reminding him that the rules applied to him, as well as others in the State Department, and that he was required--Mr. Bolton was required--to work with State Department lawyers.

There is a fourth reason, beyond his treatment of individuals--and I could go on for another hour citing examples of his alleged mistreatment of subordinates and colleagues at the State Department and in other endeavors--there is a fourth reason that, all by itself, would justify Mr. Bolton not being confirmed; and that is, Mr. Bolton gave testimony to the Foreign Relations Committee under oath that at best was misleading.

Again, do not take my word for it. It is true that I think Mr. Bolton should not go to the United Nations, and I am of a different party. But do not take my word for it. Listen to Tom Hubbard, referred to by the chairman earlier today. Mr. Hubbard is a retired Foreign Service Officer whose last post was as Ambassador to South Korea. During our hearing on April 11, Senator Chafee asked Mr. Bolton about a speech that Mr. Bolton gave in Seoul, South Korea, in 2003.


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