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2005-04-13

Ex-State Dept. Intel Chief Calls Bolton "Kiss-Up, Kick-Down Sort of Guy"

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On the second day of the John Bolton’s confirmation hearing as UN ambassador, former State Department intelligence director Carl Ford charged that in 2002, Bolton directed an abusive tirade at analyst Christian Westermann for questioning whether Cuba was developing biological and chemical weapons. We play excerpts of the hearing and speak with former CIA analysts Ray McGovern. [includes rush transcript]

On Capitol Hill yesterday, the battle over two of President Bush’s most controversial nominees continued. John Negroponte, Bush’s nominee to be the Director of National Intelligence, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee. As with his previous confirmation hearings, Negroponte faced little in the way of tough questioning, though there were some moments where he clashed with Senators. Later in the program, we will hear some of this questioning of Negroponte and take a closer look at Negroponte’s past.

But we begin with the other major hearing on Capitol Hill and that is the confirmation hearing of John Bolton, Bush’s nominee for UN Ambassador. But it wasn’t Bolton who appeared before the Senate Foreign relations Committee. Many eyes and ears in Washington focused in on the testimony of Carl Ford, the former director of intelligence and research at the State Department. In just under 3 hours of testimony, Ford denounced Bolton as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who "abuses his authority with little people." Ford charged that in 2002, Bolton directed an abusive tirade at analyst Christian Westermann for questioning whether Cuba was developing biological and chemical weapons. He characterized the incident as shaking the foundation of the intelligence bureau and said it prompted Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to intervene. Ford said shortly after the incident, Powell visited the bureau to assure its employees that they should continue to "speak truth to power." After being sworn in, Ford began his testimony.

  • Carl Ford, former State Department intelligence chief, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, April 12, 2005.

After a few brief remarks from Sen. Richard Lugar, Ford addressed the controversial Bolton incident.

  • Carl Ford, former State Department intelligence chief, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, April 12, 2005.

Throughout the hearing yesterday, the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized that the incident described by Bolton is just one example of this conduct and said they could provide more witnesses. The New York Times noted that Carl Ford’s testimony offered an extraordinary public glimpse into the long-running and raw intelligence wars within the Bush administration, pitting hawks like Bolton, a protégée of Vice President Dick Cheney, against the more circumspect intelligence operatives at the State Department who among other differences had cast doubt on some prewar claims about Iraq. Democrats charge that Bolton’s actions have grave and far-reaching implications for US credibility, while Republicans painted it as an isolated incident. Here is California Senator Barbara Boxer.

  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, April 12, 2005.

To talk more about Carl Ford and State Department intelligence we are joined by Ray McGovern, he is a 27-year career analyst with the CIA. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

  • Ray McGovern, a 27-year career analyst with the CIA. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: After being sworn in, Ford began his testimony.

CARL FORD: Mr. Chairman, it’s customary for me to thank you and the committee for the opportunity to come before the Foreign Relations Committee and present my views. Thankful is not the emotion that I am feeling this morning. It’s a very awkward situation for me to be in. I was raised with the admonition that if you can’t find something good to say about somebody, you don’t say anything at all. God knows I have not lived up to that high ideal throughout my life, but I have always tried, and even to this day, it’s an important principle in the way that I conduct myself. It’s also awkward because I consider myself to be a loyal Republican and conservative to the core. I’m a firm and enthusiastic supporter of President Bush and his policies, and I’m a huge fan of Vice President Cheney, who I worked with when he was Secretary of Defense. So, the notion of coming before you and making critical remarks about a presidential nominee is not something I take lightly, not something that I haven’t done a lot of soul-searching on, and clearly, it’s one of the more difficult assignments I have been given. But I also have to admit that I’m conscious that I might not be completely objective about Secretary Bolton. I was a party to the confrontation the Secretary had with I & R. I was a bit player, to be sure, but I was directly involved. And at the end of the day, you will have to decide whether my assessment is fair and balanced.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Carl Ford, the former Director of Intelligence and Research, I & R, at the State Department, testifying Tuesday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After a few brief remarks from Republican Senator, Richard Lugar, Ford addressed the controversial Bolton incident.

CARL FORD: I can guarantee you, though, if Secretary Bolton had chosen to come to me, or in my absence, my principal deputy, Secretary Tom Finger, I wouldn’t be here today. He could have approached me in the same tone and in the same attitude, shaking his finger, red in the face, high tone in his voice, and I wouldn’t be here today. If he had gone to Secretary Powell or Secretary Armitage and complained loudly about the poor service that he was receiving from I & R and the terrible treatment, that he had been stabbed in the back by one of I & R’s analysts, I wouldn’t be here today. The fact is that it’s appropriate if someone is unhappy with the service they’re getting from one of the service organizations in a bureaucracy, that they should complain. They should yell as loud as they want to yell. But instead of doing any of those three things, 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. And I frankly don’t care whether he is saying scat for five minutes. The attitude, the volume of his tone, and what I understand the substance of the conversation, he was so far over the line that he meets — he’s one of the sort of memorable moments in my 30-plus year career. Unfortunately, those two moments that he has given me are very negative. That is, I have never seen anybody quite like Secretary Bolton. He doesn’t even come close. I don’t have a second and third or fourth in terms of the way that he abuses his power and authority with little people. I say that because, if you bark back at him, he doesn’t bother you anymore. And anyone who has either generally the same rank or even a step or so below, they don’t have so much to fear. We can defend ourselves. There are a lot of screamers that work in government. But you don’t pull somebody so low down in the bureaucracy that they’re completely defenseless. It’s an 800-pound gorilla devouring a banana. The analyst was required simply to stand there and take it. Secretary Bolton knew when he had the tirade that, in fact, that was the case. Now, I would argue that that action, by itself, certainly brings real questions to my mind about his suitability for high office. But it was also — that person was an analyst, an intelligence analyst. And it’s clear that there is a difference of opinion in the way people look at political pressure. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take just a moment and wander off on political pressure before I finish my answer to my question.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN: Mr. Chairman, just for point of clarification, the analyst was who? Now, is this Westermann you are talking about?

CARL FORD: Senator, I frankly don’t like the idea of my analyst being named and argued about in public.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN: I just wanted to —

CARL FORD: He didn’t do anything wrong. If you have a complaint with him, talk to me. If you don’t believe what I say, talk to me.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN: I’m just trying to understand, Mr. Ford, just so —- just trying to get the chronology and who -—

CARL FORD: It was an analyst at I & R.

SENATOR: Is this Mr. Westermann?

CARL FORD: It was an analyst at I & R. I actually believe that you’re off on the wrong track. When people start taking a guy way down in the bureaucracy, just doing his job, and start making him the issue. He could have done everything wrong, everything. He could have been 150% wrong. It does not justify the treatment he received from a superior officer. I have never seen it in my career. I don’t think that any of you have seen it before. Unfortunately, my judgment, my opinion, he is a quintessential, kiss up, kick down sort of guy. There are a lot of them around. I’m sure that you have met them. But the fact is that he stands out that he has got a bigger kick, and it gets bigger and stronger the further down the bureaucracy he is kicking. And he stands out. I don’t have any other examples to give you of someone who acts this way.

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Ford yesterday at the hearing, the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee emphasize that the incident described by John Bolton is just one example of this conduct, and said they could provide more witnesses. The New York Times noted Carl Ford’s testimony offered an extraordinary public glimpse into the long-running and raw intelligence wars within the Bush administration, pitting hawks like Bolton, a protégé of Vice President Dick Cheney, against the more circumspect intelligence operatives at the State Department, who among other differences had cast doubt on some prewar claims about Iraq. Democrats charge Bolton’s actions have grave and far-reaching implications for U.S. credibility, while Republicans painted it as an isolated incident. After break, we’ll go to California Senator, Barbara Boxer. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us. Well, why don’t we go to Barbara Boxer right now.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: I want to put something new into the record here. That was written before we knew that John Bolton was going to be nominated to this position. I hope that you read it, and I hope Senator Chafee, in particular, reads it. Because what this is about is a way bigger picture, Mr. Ford. And you’re mentioned in this particular article, by the way, in a good way, so don’t worry. It ran in the Washington Monthly. It’s called "Analyze This." And I ask unanimous consent to place the whole story in the record.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: Placed in the record in full.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Now, the thesis here by the writer is that the I & R is the best intelligence agency we have, that they have been closest to right of all of the intelligence agencies, and they look at — he looks at the Iraq situation as a specific case in point. And he says, "Indeed, on the whole question of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, I & R came consistently closer to the truth than did other agencies." And he goes on and says, "They don’t just tolerate dissent there, they actually encourage it." So, it’s the different culture than what we are used to in the C.I.A. And there’s a couple of other quotes. "An important reason for I & R’s success is that the agency has a culture that tolerates dissent. The lasting criticism of the C.I.A. the 9/11 Commission produced was the agency’s tendency to shoehorn evidence to fit the results that the higher-ups desired." And it goes on: "Remember, David Kaye, the chief American arms inspector after the war told The New York Times the tubes were the only piece of physical evidence about the Iraqi weapons program that they had, and that the I & R was the only one to back the Department of Energy when they said the tubes could not be used for nuclear weapons." And then, just to finish my quotes here, "A culture of dissent must be nurtured and protected if it is to thrive. And State has usually given I & R the requisite political insulation. Another part of the reason for I & R’s insulation has to do with the kind of people who have led it. I & R analysts give former I & R director Ford, for instance, tremendous credit for shielding the bureau from political pressure." Quote, "Carl earned the respect of the people in the bureau for standing up for the work of the bureau." And then it says, "Not everyone in Washington is a fan of I & R. Many neoconservatives especially see the agency has a threat to the more vigorous military projects that they advocate."

Mr. Chairman, the reason this is such an important point is it’s really central. This is not one isolated incident. It’s three incidents. And it fits into the larger pattern of whether we are going to have an intelligence community that is free from political pressure, whether it comes from me, or from you, or from Mr. Bolton or anyone else. And the fact that Mr. Bolton tried to say it wasn’t a big deal, and he shrugged it off, fades in the light of this testimony, and the fact that we learned today that Secretary Powell actually mentioned the name of this analyst and came over to the State Department, so anyone who was fooling himself into thinking this all came out alright, there’s no "there" there, is essentially fooling himself. Because bottom line again is this was pressure, heavy duty pressure, inappropriate pressure applied to a line analyst here, and thank goodness that analyst did have the character to stand up to it and that he had someone like you, Mr. Ford, to say "knock it off" even to as big a bully as Mr. Bolton is. And I think Mr. Bolton needs anger management at the minimum, and he doesn’t deserve to be promoted based on this alone, let alone all of his comments about how the U.N. doesn’t exist and it should lose ten floors and no one would care. That aside, which is bewildering in itself, this is, based on this testimony, I think, explosive. And I hope that this committee will tell the President, "Mr. Bolton is your friend. He is a strong partisan. You can use him, but not in the job of the United Nations."

AMY GOODMAN: California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer at the John Bolton confirmation hearings on Tuesday.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Ray McGovern. He was with the Central Intelligence Agency for more than a quarter of a century. He was one of the top daily briefers for George H.W. Bush when he was Vice President. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ray McGovern.

RAY McGOVERN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to the whole scenario yesterday of Carl Ford, the significance of him coming forward and testifying?

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah. Well, just listening to your clips — I heard the whole thing yesterday, but listening to your clips, I’m getting the idea that there’s a little taste of democracy now coming in here. It’s really good to have this kind of information aired so the public can judge what kinds of pressures intelligence analysts have been put to over the last couple of years. Needless to say, I admire Carl Ford very, very much. He is appropriately protective of the people who work in his organization, people who are really under more fire than anyone else. Why? Well, because they didn’t have the same ideological proclivities as the so-called neoconservatives. And they wouldn’t — you know, they wouldn’t heel. They wouldn’t bow. Witness the fact that in that famous or infamous estimate back dated October 1, 2002, they took a footnote saying this uranium from Niger business is a canard, and the story is, (quote), "highly dubious." They dismissed the aluminum tubes canard, siding with the Department of Energy and saying, look, the specifications are exactly what they need for conventional artillery, and worst of all, when they were asked to predict when Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was likely to yield a nuclear weapon, they said, well, you know, we really cannot predict that, because we cannot predict the end of a program that we don’t see as having started. There’s no evidence that Dick Cheney is correct in saying this program was reconstituted. So, you get a little idea of why a fellow like Bolton would get all red in the face when he is faced by junior people who stick to their guns and say, look, we’re going to call it the way we see it, and we don’t care what your grade is.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray McGovern, the significance of Secretary of State Colin Powell intervening and what he did?

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah. That is very unusual, and again, it’s very much to his credit. He did pretty much give I & R free reign. Now, it would have been nice if he heeded their analysis more, because, as I’ve just said, they were right on a lot of things and specifically on things that Powell was wrong on, when he went before the world and the U.N. on February 5, 2003. But he did have the right instincts, and I applaud Carl Ford, as well, for inviting the secretary down to give a little morale and pep talk to the folks, because clearly there was this chilling effect. Clearly, the analysts were fearful of their careers if they would be subjected to the kinds of things that Westermann was subjected to. Now, what’s really striking and, you know, I have great admiration for I & R, the State Department intelligence unit, and I have worked with them very closely for those 27 years, cooperatively, I might say. We really learned a lot from them, and they from us.

Now, take the situation at C.I.A. during precisely the same time. We know that Vice President Cheney was visiting the C.I.A. regularly to make sure that their analysis was good. See, now, people ask me, was that unusual? I say, no, that wasn’t unusual. That was unprecedented. Never in my 27 years there did a Vice President come to the agency on a working visit. We would always go down to him. So, the fact that he made multiple visits, and curiously enough, the director of analysis didn’t know how many. She said, well, between five and eight, which suggests to me that Vice President Cheney was turned loose on analysts just as junior as Mr. Westermann. Now, the cardinal sin here, in my view, is that George Tenet had every responsibility to prevent that from happening to his analysts. If George Tenet had the kind of integrity that Carl Ford had — Carl Ford, as you well discerned was incredibly outraged at this the attempt to prostitute the intelligence product. Now, if George Tenet was anything like Carl Ford, he would have protected his analysts from this kind of pressure, and it wasn’t only Cheney. The likes of Newt Gingrich would go up there from the defense board there that he serves on and make sure that their analysis was in tune with what Cheney and others wanted. So, you have a real contrast here. You have the analysts at the C.I.A. receiving not only no protection, but every encouragement to not tell it like it is, but tell it like the administration wants it to be. And on the other hand, you have the State Department with a fellow like Carl Ford, who adheres to the long tradition of intelligence professionals who stand up to that kind of pressure. And if they encounter it more and more, they go to the boss and they go to the Secretary of State and say, look, if you want to hear it straight from us, you have got to protect us from the likes of John Bolton.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ray McGovern, with the C.I.A. for more than a quarter of a century.

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