Tuesday :: May 31, 2005
What's Really Behind The White House Stonewall Over Bolton Documents?
Perhaps we know now why the White House is fighting so furiously to prevent the Senate Intelligence Committee from getting all of the documents wanted by committee Democrats to evaluate the fitness of John Bolton to be our UN ambassador. According to Wednesday's New York Times previewed in the International Herald Tribune, it has been leaked by administration sources that what the White House is refusing to release to the committee are reports that Bolton obtained from the NSA by way of a special request. And what is in those reports?
The names of American individuals and companies that may have violated export restriction bans on the shipment of dangerous weapons material to China, Libya, and even Iran. And is it too big of a leap to assume that some or all of these firms may prove to be very damaging to the White House, as campaign contributors?
Some of the information that the White House has refused to provide to Congress for its review of the nomination of John Bolton includes the names of American companies mentioned in intelligence reports on commerce with China and other countries covered by export restrictions, say government officials who have been briefed on the documents.
The fact that the documents also included the names of American companies, and that the subject had to do with possible violations of American export restrictions, provides a new clue as to why the White House might be rebuffing the congressional requests.
The names of the Americans and the companies remain highly classified, but they were provided to Bolton by the National Security Agency in response to special requests he made as under secretary of state for arms control.
The administration has allowed the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee to review copies of the 10 intelligence reports, based on conversations intercepted by the National Security Agency, about which Bolton requested the additional information. But the names of American people and companies had been deleted from those reports, and the administration has refused to provide Senate leaders with the names, even though they were obtained by Bolton.
The government officials who described the intelligence reports declined to speak for the record, citing the classified nature of the documents and the extraordinary political sensitivity surrounding them. They would not say what countries other than China might have been the subject of the reports, but noted that Bolton's responsibilities also included monitoring efforts to prevent Iran, Libya and other countries from acquiring dangerous weapons.
The officials included both proponents and critics of Bolton's nomination, who said they wanted to provide the public with a clearer picture of the nature of the dispute between Congress and the White House. The officials did not know or would not say which American companies might have been mentioned in the documents.
The senators, Pat Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, both said that they had concluded that Bolton had acted properly in requesting the information from the agency. Both senators said they did not need to know the names obtained by Bolton to reach that conclusion.
But Rockefeller questioned whether Bolton might have improperly shared the names with others. Senator Joseph Biden, the top Democrat of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, cited the administration's refusal to provide the names to Congress in persuading 39 other Democrats and one independent to block until at least next week any vote on Bolton's nomination.
So which companies are Bush and Dick (Mr. Halliburton Doing Business with Saddam) Cheney trying to protect here, and how many of them are major Bush/Cheney campaign contributors? Do you remember the stink that GOP congressman Christopher Cox raised with the allegations that Clinton sold our secrets to the Chinese for campaign contributions?
What happens to Bush and the GOP if it turns out that major GOP contributors violated the export ban to China, Iran, Libya, and other countries? And what happens to Bolton if it is found out that he acquired this information and told others about it, possibly even the companies involved, in violation of national security protocols?
Update: The NYT website doesn't even have this story on its front page for Wednesday. I guess they and the Post had to make room for all those nostalgic "Deep Throat" pieces as a testament to a time when we really had an investigative media that paid more attention to important contemporary stories than they did to ones from 8 years ago about sex in the White House.
What I want to know is this: was this story leaked to the Times before or after the Deep Throat story hit the wires today?