Who Else Was John Bolton Spying Upon?
As Mary reported last night, there are new developments in the John Bolton confirmation story; surrounding his direct efforts to fire the UN’s director of chemical weapons nonproliferation efforts. You’ll also recall that last week we ran with a story first reported by Douglas Jehl of the New York Times that John Bolton had specially requested copies of NSA intercepts, documents that the White House refuses to turn over to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The story by Jehl indicated that the reason why the White House was fighting tooth and nail to prevent the Senate from getting these copies, aside from the usual Cheneyesque “fuck Congress and the horses they rode in on” modus operandi, was because the intercepts contained the names of individuals and companies that might have been violating the ban on exporting weapons materials to China, and perhaps Libya and Iran. I presumed at the time, because I always assume the worst about Republicans and money, that the White House was preventing the Senate from getting these intercepts to protect GOP contributors and to prevent a major embarrassment to itself.
The story has gone under the radar screen since the first report by Jehl, either because of the usual White House clamp down (remember that the sources for the original story were pro-Bolton and anti-Bolton administration insiders), or because the original story was a misdirection attempt to get the media off the trail of something even more onerous. I had thought with every passing day of no news on this story that the misdirection angle was the likely reason.
Then last Thursday afternoon, I received a tip that the real story may not be the export ban angle after all, but rather something more damaging to Bolton: he requested the NSA intercepts to spy on his co-workers. Aside from the gross misuse of national security assets for personal political purposes, any attempt by Bolton to use the national security apparatus to spy on coworkers, even if done under the veneer of his regular assignments would presumedly have been known to those above his pay grade, since we are talking about cross-jurisdictional lines here. And if in fact Bolton was spying on coworkers, this would be at least as damaging to the White House as it would to Bolton personally because it would show an out-of-control Administration steeped in a Nixonian paranoia, which isn’t that far-fetched given Rummy and Cheney’s tours of duty now and then.
Today Steve Clemons gets another shoe to drop when he reports that Bolton in fact requested at least one NSA intercept on Libya, in an effort to spy on a fellow State Department appointee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns. But at the time Bolton made the special request from the NSA for this intercept, he had already been removed from working on Libyan WMD issues at the direct request of the British. I am not sure but I would think that requesting an NSA intercept on a country that isn’t in your “need-to-know” portfolio of responsibilities would have to be approved by your superiors at State (Richard Armitage and Colin Powell), the NSA itself, and even possibly the White House. That the national security information would be used to spy upon coworkers for your own political purposes would of course be something that these layers of review would question themselves, when they would ask why you need this information when you are no longer working on the Libya WMD issue for the Administration. I mean, why would Armitage and Powell approve Bolton’s fishing expedition on Libya after he had been removed from the assignment?
Of course, my question assumes that Armitage and Powell themselves even knew about Bolton’s special requests of the NSA in the first place, let alone for what they were for. But beyond the question of whether or not Bolton’s Foggy Bottom bosses even knew about his special request of the NSA that involved Burns, there looms a bigger question surrounding the remaining 9 NSA intercepts that the White House is refusing to release to the Senate: who else was Bolton spying upon?
Please note that Burns and Powell go way back to the days when Burns worked for Powell at the NSC, so any focus by Bolton towards Burns is in fact a focus by Bolton on the boss himself.
What if Armitage and Powell didn’t know anything about the NSA intercepts because they weren’t supposed to, because they were also targets? This in fact was the subject of the tip I received last week.