New York Times
April 16, 2005
WASHINGTON, April 15 - An attempt in 2002 by John R. Bolton to remove the national intelligence officer for Latin America from his post prompted John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director of central intelligence, to intervene against the request, according to current and former intelligence officials.
Mr. McLaughlin's previously undisclosed role is being reviewed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as it considers the nomination of Mr. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. In testimony last week, Mr. Bolton acknowledged that he had sought to have the intelligence officer, Fulton T. Armstrong, reassigned.
The incident is one of at least three being reviewed by the committee in which Mr. Bolton sought the removal of subordinates or intelligence officials during his time as an under secretary of state. Senate Democrats who oppose Mr. Bolton's nomination intend to highlight the infighting as an indication that Mr. Bolton's actions toward subordinates were inappropriate enough to require action by other senior officials.
In his Senate testimony, Mr. Bolton described his request for Mr. Armstrong's transfer, made during a visit to Stuart A. Cohen, then the acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council, in July 2002, as "one part of one conversation with one person one time." He said he had acted because he had lost confidence in Mr. Armstrong and had not been satisfied with his performance on several intelligence matters.
Mr. Bolton's responsibilities at the time included overseeing intelligence estimates on Cuba, though Mr. Armstrong did not report to him.
But in an interview on April 8 with the Senate committee staff, according to a memorandum written by the Democratic staff, Mr. Cohen described Mr. Bolton's request as unusual, saying it was one of only two occasions he could recall in which senor Bush administration officials had traveled to C.I.A. headquarters to complain about one of his subordinates. The other occasion was a related visit by Otto Reich, a close ally of Mr. Bolton's, who also sought Mr. Armstrong's removal.
Three former and current intelligence officials confirmed Mr. Cohen's reservations about the request. Mr. Cohen, who is still a C.I.A. employee, was not available to comment, the agency said.
"Mr. Cohen listened to those concerns, took them seriously, fully investigated them and determined that they were without merit," according to the summary written by the Democratic staff, which was made available late Friday. The notes say that Mr. Cohen presented the issue on several occasions to Mr. McLaughlin, and that Mr. McLaughlin stated that he was not going to remove Mr. Armstrong from his position.
One former intelligence official said Mr. McLaughlin had "laid his body down" to block the request from Mr. Bolton.
John C. Gannon, who preceded Mr. Cohen as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said in an interview on Friday that he believed that Mr. Bolton's behavior had been "inexcusable."
"If you don't like the results of analysis, then you don't accept it," said Mr. Gannon, who left government recently after serving as the Republican-appointed staff director of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. "But you don't try to remove the people whose view you disagree with."
Robert L. Hutchings, who succeeded Mr. Cohen as head of the intelligence council, said the effects of Mr. Bolton's objections to Mr. Armstrong had lingered as late as last year, when the officer was not included in a briefing team assigned to discuss with other senior officials the result of a new intelligence estimate on Cuba to which Mr. Bolton had objected.
"There was a group of firebrands who we figured would not like the judgment," Mr. Hutchings said in a telephone interview on Friday, making clear that he included Mr. Bolton among that group. "We anticipated that the findings would be unwelcome in some quarters, and we wanted to depersonalize this thing as much as we could, to make clear that it was the assessment of the intelligence community, and not a particular individual." Mr. Hutchings now holds a teaching post at Princeton University.
Democrats on the Senate committee blocked a vote on Mr. Bolton this week and have been seeking to persuade Senator Lincoln D. Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, to join them in opposing the nomination. Mr. Chafee said earlier this week that testimony about Mr. Bolton's treatment of subordinates had been compelling but that he still did not see a pattern of abuse in Mr. Bolton's behavior. A committee meeting at which a vote is expected is scheduled for Tuesday.
Appearing on Friday before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Mr. Bolton in response to a question from the audience. "I have known him as someone who is intelligent and strong and who is going to go after any job that he is given with a lot of fervor and interest and commitment," she said.
Democratic Congressional officials said the Senate committee was also reviewing an episode that was first disclosed Friday by The Washington Post. This case revolves around the transfer of a young career State Department officer, Rexon Y. Ryu, whom Mr. Bolton had accused of insubordination for failing to produce a document requested by Mr. Bolton's chief of staff.
"We looked into the matter," John S. Wolf, a former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said of the complaints about Mr. Ryu from Mr. Bolton's aides. "We decided that what he did was inadvertent, and we told that to Mr. Bolton's office." Mr. Wolf, now president of the Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia, praised Mr. Ryu as "a really thoughtful, highly creative star at the State Department."
The Democrats on the committee are also reviewing Mr. Bolton's tenure at the Justice Department in 1988, when he led the civil division and was involved in a bitter dispute with a senior attorney over the length of her maternity leave.
Steven R. Weisman contributed reporting for this article.