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2005-04-12

Senators Grill Bolton on Past UN Comments, Politicizing Intelligence

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During the confirmation hearing of John Bolton as UN ambassador nominee, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled Bolton on his highly critical comments on the UN and his treatment of intelligence officials in the state department. We play extended excerpts of the hearing. [includes rush transcript]

The confirmation hearing of John Bolton, president Bush’s nominee for US ambassador to the United Nations, began yesterday in Washington.

Bolton has served in the past three Republican administrations and been one of the party’s strongest conservative voices. He is now the Bush administration’s arms control chief.

During the day-long confirmation hearing, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled Bolton on his highly critical comments on the UN and his treatment of intelligence officials in the state department.

Bolton repeatedly played down his previous attacks on the UN. This is an excerpt of what he had to say in his opening statement.

  • John Bolton, Senate confirmation hearing for UN ambassador nominee, April 11, 2005.

After his opening statement, Senate Democrats grilled Bolton during the day-long hearing. Perhaps the most confrontational moment of the day came from California Senator Barbara Boxer. She took Bolton to task on his previous jabs at the United Nations.

  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senate confirmation hearing for UN ambassador nominee, April 11, 2005.

Senator Boxer went on to play a clip of John Bolton speaking more than 10 years ago at an event called "The Global Structures Convocation." It was held on February 3, 1994, in New York. This is an excerpt of what Boxer played during yesterday’s hearing.

  • John Bolton, speaking at the Global Structures convocation, New York City, Feb. 3, 1994.

After Senator Boxer played those comments during the hearing, Bolton defended the controversial statements.

  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) questioning John Bolton, Senate confirmation hearing for UN ambassador nominee, April 11, 2005.

Senator Barbara Boxer of California grilling John Bolton during yesterday’s confirmation hearing. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is made up of by ten Republicans to eight Democrats. All eight Democrats are expected to oppose Bolton’s nomination. Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee was the panel’s only Republican who was seen as a possible vote against Bolton. But after the morning session yesterday, Chafee said that he was generally satisfied with Bolton’s answers and that he was still "inclined" to vote to approve him. It was another Republican on the panel–Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska–that issued some sharp questions to Bolton on the war in Iraq.

  • Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) questioning John Bolton, Senate confirmation hearing for UN ambassador nominee, April 11, 2005.

A little later in the proceedings three women peace activists from the group Codepink interrupted the hearing. They held up banners reading "NO Bolton, YES UN," "Bolton equals Nuclear Proliferation," and "Diplomat, Not Bully, Please!" and urged Senators to reject Bolton as the worst possible choice for the job and for world peace.

  • Codepink protesters disrupt Senate hearing.

The three women were quickly kicked out of the hearing. Much of Monday’s confirmation hearing focused on allegations that Bolton tried to have intelligence analysts removed from their posts after disagreeing with him. Committee Democrats circulated a portion of a Senate Intelligence Committee report from two years ago questioning whether Bolton pressured a State Department intelligence analyst who tried to tone down language in a speech he gave about Cuba’s biological weapons capabilities. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut asked Bolton about the allegations.

  • Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) questioning John Bolton, Senate confirmation hearing for UN ambassador nominee, April 11, 2005.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Bolton repeatedly played down his previous attacks on the U.N. This is an excerpt of what he had to say in his opening statement.

JOHN BOLTON: If confirmed, I look forward to working closely with this committee to forge a stronger relationship between the United States and the United Nations, which depends critically on American leadership. Such leadership in turn must rest upon broad, bipartisan support in Congress. It must be earned by putting to rest skepticism that so many feel about the U.N. system.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. After his opening statement, Senate democrats grilled Bolton during the day-long hearing. Perhaps the most confrontational moment of the day came from California Senator, Barbara Boxer. She took Bolton to task on his previous jabs at the United Nations.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Mr. Chairman, I’m bewildered by this nomination, given the situation in the world where the President has gone around the world to try to rebuild relationships, Secretary Rice has done that. Mr. Bolton, I respect your commitment to public service, I do, and the good things that you have done, among a whole list of things that maybe I didn’t think were as good as some. But I have spent the last month extensively reviewing your writings, your public statements about the United Nations, and my overall assessment, Mr. Bolton, is that you have nothing but disdain for the United Nations. Now, you can dance around it, you can run away from it, you can put perfume on it, but the bottom line is the bottom line. And I — as Senator Biden said in his opening, it’s hard for me to know why would you want to work at an institution that you said didn’t even exist. You said it doesn’t even exist, and you want to work there.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Boxer went on to play a clip of John Bolton speaking more than ten years ago at an event called the Global Structures Convocation. It was held February 3, 1994, in New York. This is an excerpt of what Boxer played during Monday’s hearing.

JOHN BOLTON: If you think that there is any possibility in this country that a 51,000-person bureaucracy is going to be supported by most Americans, you better think again. The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. The United Nations is one of the most inefficient, intergovernmental organizations going. UNESCO is even worse, and others go downhill from there. The fact of the matter is that the international system that has grown up, and again, I leave out the World Bank and the IMF, because I do think they’re in a separate category, has been put into a position of hiring ineffective people who do ineffective things, that have no real world impact. And we pay 25% of the budget.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton, speaking in 1994 in New York. After Senator Boxer played those comments during the hearing, Bolton defended the controversial statements.

JOHN BOLTON: Well, the tape that you just showed and some of those statements come from a panel discussion, I think it was in 1994, before the World Federalists. The World Federalists believe in world government. And I do not.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: I’m not interested in them. I’m interested in you.

JOHN BOLTON: I was talking to that audience at the time, so that’s what I’m trying to explain.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Well, you don’t say different things to different audiences.

JOHN BOLTON: No, I don’t. What many of the World Federalists believe is that the U.N. is the nascent world government coming into being. And I don’t agree with that either. So what I was trying to do to that audience of World Federalists was get their attention, and the comments about the ten stories was a way of saying there’s not a bureaucracy in the world that cannot be made leaner and more efficient. I was trying to get their attention.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Well, that isn’t what you said. You said it wouldn’t be missed. So we could look at, what wouldn’t be missed? Talk to us about that.

JOHN BOLTON: I think a reduction in personnel is something that every manager and every government organization, every international organization should strive for, and that was the metaphor I was trying to come up with, as I say, to try to get their attention. The question about — you cut off the middle of my presentation in your showing of the tape.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Well, I ask unanimous consent to put the entire statement in the record.

JOHN BOLTON: I appreciate that. The concept that I was addressing there is the problem of false concreteness, where many people say, well, the U.N. did this, or the U.N. did that. The U.N. failed here, or the U.N. succeeded here. And in the vast majority of cases, it’s not a question of the U.N. succeeding or failing. It’s a question of whether the member governments of the United Nations have made the correct decision. And that problem of false concreteness is something that I think is a very real problem. It’s —

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Mr. Bolton, I don’t mean to cut you off, but you are getting away from the point. I read everything in here. You didn’t talk about there being — you need to fire certain people. You say, "The point I want to leave with you in this very brief presentation is where I started: There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests, and when we can get others to go along. I think it would be a real mistake to count on the U.N. as if it’s some disembodied entity out there that can function."

AMY GOODMAN: California Senator, Barbara Boxer, grilling John Bolton during Monday’s confirmation hearing. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is made up of ten republicans, eight democrats. All eight democrats are expected to oppose Bolton’s nomination. Rhode Island Senator, Lincoln Chafee was the panel’s only republican who was seen as a possible vote against Bolton, but after the morning session, Chafee said he was generally satisfied with Bolton’s answers and that he was still inclined to vote to approve him. It was another republican on the panel, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, that issued some sharp questions to Bolton on the war in Iraq. When we come back from this break, we’ll hear what Senator Chuck Hagel had to say.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who questioned John Bolton about Iraq.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL: I’d like to hear your thoughts about the relevancy, the effectiveness of the I.A.E.A. Director Baradei, what you think of him. I think most who are following your nomination are aware, certainly this panel is aware, that as we have seen the results of more of our internal intelligence reports, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the recent Silberman-Robb Commission report, the 9/11 report, what we have seen is that Hans Blix and the United Nations inspectors had it right in Iraq; we had it wrong. I would like you to work your way into that. How could they, the United Nations inspectors, be so right, and our intelligence committee be so wrong? And that cuts to the bigger question of the future of the I.A.E.A. Do you support the I.A.E.A.? do you support Mr. Baradei’s continuation as Director?

JOHN BOLTON: Well, perhaps I could address the I.A.E.A. question first, and then try to come to your larger question. I have been, since the first Bush administration, a supporter of the I.A.E.A. I remember the first President Bush in hours before giving one of his speeches to the General Assembly, saying how much he wanted to strengthen the hand of the I.A.E.A. It’s been a phrase that has stayed in my mind ever since then. And I think we have seen just in the first four years of this administration that the level of cooperation with the I.A.E.A. on the question of North Korea, before North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was very good. I think that we have had a number of transactions with the I.A.E.A. involving Iran, involving sharing some pretty sensitive information that’s been very helpful. We have maintained our contributions to the I.A.E.A. We are — we have had numerous voluntary contributions to the I.A.E.A.'s work. Our feeling on the Director General is that we support the longstanding policy of two terms for Director Generals. That's been the policy. There are no — currently there are no candidates to oppose him, so we’ll have to see how that policy plays out. But we have said repeatedly, that’s not a policy aimed at him or anybody else, it’s a policy that we think is good for the U.N. system as a whole. On your larger question, I don’t think there’s any doubt that what we have learned about — what we have learned post-war in Iraq about our intelligence is a kind of lesson that we need to address and in a very serious way, in a very urgent manner. I think the Silberman-Robb Commission, and I haven’t — I don’t want to say I have carefully studied all of it, including the classified portions, but I have read large parts of it, and particularly the parts on Iraq. And I think that the Silberman-Robb Commission really captured quite well many of the failings that not just our intelligence community, but many of us, had.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton, being questioned by republican Senator, Chuck Hagel. A little later in the proceedings, three women peace activists from the group CODEPINK interrupted the hearing. They held up banners, reading, "No Bolton, Yes U.N.," "Bolton Equals Nuclear Proliferation," and "Diplomat, Not Bully, Please!" and urged senators to reject Bolton as the worst possible choice for the job and for world peace.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: Chair calls for order.

WOMAN: You need to leave.

CODEPINK: No on Bolton! No! No on Bolton! He does not represent — No on Bolton! No to Bolton! He does not represent our interests! He does not represent global security!

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: The hearing is adjourned until order is restored.

AMY GOODMAN: The three women were quickly kicked out of the hearing. Much of Monday’s confirmation hearing focused on allegations that Bolton tried to have intelligence analysts removed from their posts after disagreeing with him. Committee democrats circulated a portion of a Senate Intelligence Committee report from two years ago questioning whether Bolton pressured a State Department intelligence analyst who tried to tone down language in a speech he gave about Cuba’s biological weapons capabilities. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut asked Bolton about the allegations.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: And that is the allegation that you tried to have two analysts removed from their jobs because you disagreed with their intelligence conclusions. That, to me, in this environment we’re in today, Mr. Bolton, I would say, putting aside your views about the United Nations and other things, if that is true, then I don’t think you have a right to serve in a high post. I think it would be unfortunate to set the example in this day and age, when we’re trying to get the best intelligence we can, if you try to remove someone. Whether or not you are successful or not is not the issue. Trying to rob a bank and failing to do so is not — is a crime in my view. Trying to remove someone as an analyst from their job because you disagree with what they’re saying, I think, is dreadfully wrong. And you have got an opportunity to defend yourself here, and I want to get to the bottom of it, if we can. Now, you have made this statement in response to Senator Biden, that you did not try — you did try to remove or at least you recommended that these two individuals, one we have talked about, Mr. Westermann, and the other we’ll just call an intelligence officer because his name should be kept private. Is that — did I hear you correctly when you responded to Senator Biden?

JOHN BOLTON: I don’t think so, Senator, respectfully. The way you put it at the beginning was that I tried to have people removed because of their — because I disagreed with their intelligence conclusions. And that’s not true.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: You thought, because they went behind your back?

JOHN BOLTON: I thought in — I thought in both cases, if I may say so, their conduct was unprofessional and broke my confidence and trust, which I think — I think is important in all professional relationships, especially in ones involving intelligence.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Let me address that particular point now, because as I understand it, Mr. Westermann, who by the way, has a distinguished background, is highly regarded by his peers, and I’ll lay that out for the record hearing here, going back and interviewing his superiors and others over the years. As I understand it, and you correct me if I’m wrong now, that this going behind your back, Mr. Westermann sent an email to your chief of staff, as I understand it now, Frederick Fleitz, is that how you pronounce his name?

JOHN BOLTON: That’s correct.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: He sent an email in February to your chief of staff that tried to alert your assistant that you were probably going to have trouble getting the language cleared that you wanted to include and suggested alternative language at that time to him. Your assistant, Mr. Fleitz, pressed to have the language sent out for clearance. So Mr. Westermann did so at the suggestion of your chief of staff. The submission to the intelligence committee made clear the language that you wanted cleared. It was — also contained Mr. Westermann’s suggested alternative language. Now, all due respect, how is that going behind your back?

JOHN BOLTON: You know, Senator, a lot of the material that’s in —

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: But am I correct in my assessment of what occurred? That he did send an email?

JOHN BOLTON: I don’t know what the circumstances were. I have seen a lot of it after the time. What I did was talk to Mr. Westermann’s supervisor. I first called Mr. Ford. He was not in the office that day. I forget the reason why. Carl Ford, the assistant secretary, the head of the bureau. I then asked to speak to Tom Finger, who was the principal deputy assistant secretary at the bureau, the senior career official. And I said, basically, I — I said, basically, what’s going on here?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Did you call Mr. Westermann?

JOHN BOLTON: I called him to find — and he basically said he had sent something out into the clearance process without notifying us. So I put this to Mr. Finger.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Well, you made a statement he went behind your back.

JOHN BOLTON: Yes.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Have you checked?

JOHN BOLTON: I did. That’s why I asked Mr. Finger. I didn’t know what the facts were. I asked Mr. Finger, the senior career officer in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and he came back a couple of hours later with an — he didn’t know what the circumstances were, which is understandable, I think. But he came back to me a couple of hours later with an email that said that Mr. Westermann’s behavior was, (quote), "entirely inappropriate," (close quote). He said, referring to I.N.R., he said, (quote), "We screwed up," (close quote), and he said twice, "It won’t happen again."

AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton being questioned by Connecticut democratic Senator, Christopher Dodd. The hearings for John Bolton to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations continue today. The hearings for John Negroponte to be Director of National Intelligence begin today.

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