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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bolton and Cuba

Part of the hullabaloo about John Bolton is his longstanding interest in alleged Cuban WMD. Bolton has been unkind, apparently, to underlinings who disagree with him. From the Washington Post story of April 18:
Thomas Fingar, who runs the State Department's intelligence bureau, which is the official liaison between the department and the rest of the intelligence community, told the Senate committee on April 8 that [Bolton's chief of staff, Frederick] Fleitz had asked that a clearance request for controversial intelligence on Cuba be made through WINPAC [CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center, where Fleitz ordinarily works].

Often those requests go through the National Intelligence Council (NIC), but it became public during last week's hearings that Bolton had clashed with the council officer in charge of Latin America.

Bolton came up against resistance from Fingar's bureau and, later, from the national intelligence officer on Latin America over a speech he gave in May 2002 suggesting that Cuba had a biological weapons program.

The former national intelligence officer told the committee that he received an abusive e-mail from Fleitz after he had raised objections with the Senate staff about the Cuba speech. The former officer and his boss then, Stuart Cohen, who ran the NIC in 2002, said Bolton tried to get the officer removed from his job after the incident.

[Carl] Ford, who ran the State Department's intelligence bureau before Fingar, also said that Bolton had sought the removal of Christian Westermann, the bureau analyst who had also challenged the ambiguous intelligence Bolton wanted to make public about Cuba.

When Westermann shared his dissenting view about the intelligence, he was ordered to Bolton's office and berated, Ford and Westermann said. Ford and Silver said Bolton wanted Westermann removed from his job at the intelligence bureau. Bolton denied that he tried to have anyone fired but said that the national intelligence officer and Westermann had acted inappropriately.
Not good.

A key part of the story, however, is how Bolton made the same mistakes towards Cuban WMD that the entire Bush administration made in regards to Iraqi WMD. The neocons who support Bolton's nomination, by the way, want to overlook all this.

Miles Pomper of the Arms Control Association has a great report:
According to a number of accounts, Bolton’s initial draft read:

“The United States believes that Cuba has a developmental offensive biological weapons program and is providing assistance to other rogue state programs.” It also called for international inspectors to monitor Cuba’s biological facilities.

The speech that Bolton delivered read:

“The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support BW programs in those states. We call on Cuba to cease all BW-applicable cooperation with rogue states and to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.”

The remarks that Bolton ultimately delivered closely paralleled those that assistant Secretary of State Carl Ford, then head of the INR bureau, had made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2002.
Carl Ford, the Republican in the State Department's INR emphasized that there's a pretty big difference between Cuba's "effort" to test some elements of biological weapons and "program" to develop them. The latter would have testing and production facilities, which Cuba apparently lacks.

Still, in 2004, Bolton persisted to push the intelligence:
at a House International Relations Committee hearing in March 2004, Bolton asserted that "Cuba remains a terrorist and BW threat to the United States."

However, the New York Times reported in September 2004 that a new National Intelligence Estimate further scaled down the perceived threat from Cuba. According to the article, the assessment concluded that the intelligence community "continues to believe that Cuba has the technical capability to pursue some aspects of an offensive biological weapons program."
Later, Bolton backed off his earlier claims:
"existing intelligence reporting is problematic, and the Intelligence Community’s ability to determine the scope, nature, and effectiveness of any Cuban BW program has been hampered by reporting from sources of questionable access, reliability, and motivation."
Something similar, by the way, occurred with Bolton's charges about Syria.

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