Bush Nominee for U.N. Post Faces Hurdles

DOUGLAS JEHL and STEVEN R. WEISMAN

New York Times

April 7, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 6 - A former chief of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research is expected to testify in opposition to John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on Mr. Bolton next week.

With one Republican member, Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, reserving final judgment, the committee's approval of Mr. Bolton's nomination does not appear to be certain, senior Congressional officials said.

Two other administration nominees ran into difficulties in the confirmation process on Wednesday, as a senator threatened to block the nomination of Stephen L. Johnson to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and two Democrats said they were blocking the confirmation of the nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration.

Carl W. Ford Jr., the former State Department official, and Mr. Bolton clashed while at the State Department over what Mr. Ford regarded as Mr. Bolton's intimidation of intelligence officials. The committee is also seeking testimony from two intelligence officials, one a top Central Intelligence Agency analyst, about what the officials have said they believed were Mr. Bolton's efforts to have them replaced for disagreeing with him over the weapons programs of Iraq, Cuba and other countries.

Former government officials have accused Mr. Bolton of improperly circumventing State Department channels to gain access to confidential sensitive intelligence reports, the Congressional officials said.

In addition, there have been accusations that Mr. Bolton has sought to remove dissenters from their posts or bar them from meetings called to discuss policies. A senior Central Intelligence Agency official has become the second government official to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that he believes Mr. Bolton sought to remove him from his post after he complained that statements Mr. Bolton made in 2002 about a biological weapons program in Cuba did not reflect the views of intelligence agencies, Congressional officials said.

They said that the committee was reviewing those accusations, combined with previous allegations that Mr. Bolton had tried to suppress information undercutting the administration's contentions about unconventional weapons.

Mr. Bolton has declined to comment on the accusations, but a senior State Department official, declining to be identified to avoid breaking a no-comment rule before the hearings, said that Mr. Bolton had never tried to distort intelligence reports, have anyone dismissed or bar dissenters from his meetings.

He added that Mr. Bolton had in fact barred aides from outside his immediate office from meetings, including one from the Intelligence and Research Bureau, to confine these sessions to "immediate family" and not for policy reasons.

Mr. Bolton's use of intelligence has long been a source of contention in the Bush administration, particularly in the State Department. Some intelligence officials have complained that he used intelligence selectively, promoting views favorable to his positions on Cuba, Iraq, Syria and other countries.

Mr. Bolton is scheduled to testify Monday, and Mr. Ford and other possible witnesses are to testify Tuesday. A Republican Senate staff aide said Mr. Bolton could return for a rebuttal if necessary.

Republican and Democratic Senate staff members said that Mr. Bolton would probably be approved, but that if all 8 Democrats were joined by one of the 10 Republicans on the committee to make it a tie vote, the nomination could not go to the Senate floor and would most likely be blocked. The Congressional officials who discussed the prospects for the hearing included Democrats and Republicans and people who favor the Bolton nomination as well as those who oppose it. They refused to be identified because of the delicacy of the nomination, because the postponement of the hearing in light of the funeral for Pope John Paul II made the situation fluid and because intelligence matters are involved.

Senator Chafee is "inclined" to vote in favor of Mr. Bolton, said his spokesman, Stephen Hourahan. But he said that Mr. Chafee, after meeting with the nominee, had not decided and still had serious concerns that Mr. Bolton needed to address.

The emerging Democratic strategy is to dig up evidence of intelligence abuses and try to confront Mr. Bolton with his past criticism of the United Nations and to win over Mr. Chafee, a strong United Nations supporter, if Mr. Bolton does not repudiate his earlier positions. One of the administration's most outspoken conservatives, and a longtime critic of the United Nations, Mr. Bolton has won praise from conservatives and Republicans who say he should be able to serve a president and a vice president whose views he reflects.

Of the two aides that the committee wants to interview, one is a C.I.A. official serving undercover overseas, who was national intelligence officer for Latin America, responsible for producing formal intelligence estimates on Cuba and other topics.

The second official, Christian P. Westermann of the State Department, complained to the intelligence panel in 2003 about being removed by Mr. Bolton. But the senior State Department official said Mr. Bolton lost confidence in Mr. Westermann's willingness to get clearance for the wording he wanted to use in a speech and not over the basic interpretation of the intelligence.

The Foreign Relations committee has asked the C.I.A. and the State Department to make the two officials available to the panel's staff, as well as at least two others, and to produce other documents as part of its review of Mr. Bolton's conduct, the Congressional officials said. The officials said they were seeking to substantiate the accusations by former officials that Mr. Bolton improperly obtained intelligence reports from the C.I.A., and the National Security Agency, rather than going through the department's on Bureau of Intelligence and Research, with which he had a stormy relationship.

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell praised Mr. Westermann in 2003 for providing confidential testimony to the Senate intelligence panel about his disagreements on arms matters. Mr. Powell said he was "pleased" that Mr. Westermann had "honestly answered" when asked about pressure to describe undue influence on intelligence on Iraq.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington for this article.